Chapter 8 The Administration of Justice. The American Court Structure. The U.S. has a dual court system . dual court. One system of state and local courts and another system of federal courts. The American Court Structure.
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The Administration of Justice
The U.S. has a dual court system.
One system of state and local courts and another system of federal courts.
The court’s jurisdiction is set by law and limited by territory and type of case.
The authority of a court to hear and decide cases.
The authority for the federal court system is in the Constitution. The system includes:
A party that loses a case in district court may appeal to a federal circuit court of appeals, or in some cases, directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court is composed of:
When the court decides a case, it can:
The state courts have general power to decide nearly every type of case.
The three key actors in the court process are:
The prosecutor is a powerful actor in the administration of justice. Prosecutors have the authority to:
Probably the most strategic source of power available to prosecutors is their authority to decide which cases to plea bargain.
Justice in America is dispensed mostly through plea bargaining.
The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees the right to the “effective assistance” of counsel. Defendants have a right to counsel during many stages in the criminal justice process
A defendant may waive the right to counsel and appear on his or her own behalf.
In the American system of justice, the role of defense counsel is to provide the best possible legal counsel and advocacy within the legal and ethical limits of the profession.
In some circumstances, defendants who cannot afford a lawyer are provided with a court-appointed, private attorney.
In many large jurisdictions, people who cannot afford an attorney are provided with public defenders.
A relatively new and increasingly popular way to provide for indigent defense is the contract system.
Judges have a variety of responsibilities in the criminal justice process:
The two most common selection methods are:
In the merit selection process, also known as the “Missouri Plan,”
The screening process of pretrial stages eliminates from the judicial process about half of all the persons arrested.
A bail bond or bailallows suspects or defendants to remain free while awaiting the next stage in the adjudication process.
It is not a fine, but an incentive to appear.
Usually a monetary guarantee deposited with the court that is supposed to ensure that the suspect or defendant will appear at a later stage in the criminal justice process.
The amount of bail generally depends on:
If a judge believes that a suspect or defendant would pose a threat to the community, the judge can refuse to set bail. This is called preventive detention.
For people who cannot afford to post bail, professional bonds people are available to post it for them for a nonrefundable fee, typically 10% of the required amount.
Suspects who post their own bail get it all back after they appear.
When the crime is minor and suspects or defendants have ties to the community, they are generally released on their own recognizance.
A form of release that requires that a suspect/defendant maintain contact with a pretrial release program or undergo regular drug monitoring or treatment.
An arrangement in which bail is set but no money is paid to the court.
The alternative to filing an information is a grand jury.
Generally a group of 12 to 23 citizens who meet in closed sessions to investigate charges coming from preliminary hearings or to engage in other responsibilities. A primary purpose of the grand jury is to determine whether there is probable cause to believe that the accused committed the crime or crimes.
Before appearing before a grand jury, the prosecutor drafts an indictment.
A document that outlines the charge or charges against a defendant.
Because the grand jury has to determine only probable cause:
In addition, prosecutors have the authority to subpoena witnesses.
In practice, the grand jury system is criticized for merely providing a rubber stamp for whatever the prosecutor wants to do.
Suspects waive the right to a grand jury hearing in about 80% of cases.
Justice in the U.S. is dispensed mostly through plea bargaining. There are three basic types of plea bargains:
The bargain a prosecutor will strike generally depends on three factors:
There is neither a constitutional basis nor a statutory basis for plea bargaining.
Plea bargaining developed out of custom, but has been upheld by the Supreme Court.
Plea bargaining is widely used because of several factors: