This is the structure of the American judiciary

The American judiciary is an independent branch of government that has been structured in a way that it can operate independently and free from any form of interference from the other branches of government namely the executive and the legislative. It’s essentially the role of the judiciary to give legal interpretation to the various laws that the country conforms to, which are primarily enshrined in the constitution.

In this article we will look at the 6 main courts in America that make up the judiciary as well as briefly look at the types of cases that they handle.

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court in America is the most superior court in the land and is the only court that has been expressly named in the country’s constitution. The work of this court is mainly to handle appeal cases from the other federal courts and will always stick to cases that have an impact on the entire nation and not just on individuals.

The Courts of Appeals

Below the Supreme Court seats 13 Courts of Appeals with each one mandated to handle appeals emanating from trial courts in their respective regional circuits. Any accused person who feels that a trial court didn’t apply the law correctly during their case is free to raise their appeal at the relevant appeals court.

Bankruptcy Appellate Panels

There are also special courts dedicated to hearing appeals from bankruptcy courts and these are the Bankruptcy Appellate Panels. These panels are an extension of the Courts of Appeals and it will be the responsibility of the respective circuits to establish them.

The District Courts

These are 94 in number and are what will commonly be referred to as trial courts. Each state has at least one of these courts and they are mandated to resolve any legal disputes that emerge between citizens or corporates within the borders of respective states. It’s mostly the responsibility of a judge to try cases and the responsibility of the jury to decide the cases that come to these courts.

Bankruptcy Courts

In America, it’s the mandate of Federal courts to hear all bankruptcy cases through Bankruptcy Courts. This therefore means that no other court can handle such cases with the exception of the Bankruptcy Appellate Panels that will handle appeals from this court.

Article I Courts

The Article I Courts are special courts that are created by the United StatesCongress to handle special hearings. An example of such Article I Courts includes US Tax Court, US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

Before any citizen goes to a lawyer to seek legal counsel, it will be beneficial to fully understand which specific court their case falls under so that they can get a lawyer who is familiar with handling cases at that required level.

These are the 3 basic things every client needs from their lawyer

When a client makes the decision to seek the services of a lawyer, they do so knowing that the first obligation of the lawyer will be to them therefore their lawyer will go out of their way to offer the best legal representation. During the engagement between a lawyer and their client, there are basic obligations that lawyers must fulfill.

These are the 3 basic things every client needs from their lawyer.

Respecting attorney-client privilege

Attorney-client-privilege essentially means that any information that a client discloses to his/her lawyer is privileged therefore the lawyer is not permitted to share it with anyone else unless with the express permission of their client. This therefore means that any lawyer who violates this privilege is liable to sanctions including disbarment.

Avoiding conflict of interest

A lawyer must be 100 per cent dedicated to the best outcome for their client therefore in the event there is a possibility in the existence of a conflict of interest that may prevent the lawyer from serving the client fully, they must fully disclose this conflict and even remove themselves from the case, and recommend new legal counsel for their client. Denying a client good representation due to a conflict makes the lawyer liable to sanctions including disbarment. for more details:

Keeping personal prejudices in check

Every individual has personal prejudices and lawyers are not an exception. However, lawyers have a higher obligation to keep these prejudices in check because they mustn’t allow such prejudices to hinder their ability of providing the best legal counsel to their client.

Keeping these points in mind, a client should always be fully aware of what they are entitled to when they seek legal representation from a lawyer as well as where to seek recourse if a lawyer ends up violating these entitlements.

Legal services that exist in the American justice system

The American justice system was built to serve the legal needs of all people in America and has therefore been structured in a way that any person irrespective or race, age, gender, political affiliation or social background can access legal services.

This article seeks to look at 5 types of legal services that exist in the American justice system which are accessible to all people living in America.

Legal aid clinics

In America, the government funds legal aid clinics which are basically organizations that are established to offer legal services to poor people living in America. Such funding is often very limited therefore these legal clinics end up taking just a small number of cases.

Pro bono services

In America it’s a common practice by both independent lawyers as well as law firms, big or small to dedicate some of their time to handle cases free of charge. This is referred to as pro bono services. These cases they choose to handle for free will mostly be based on some form of merit.

Personal injury attorneys on contingency

There are a group of lawyers in America referred to as personal injury attorneys who will mostly take up cases without charging the client upfront. Their payment is usually on contingency and this basically means that you will pay them an agreed percentage should they help you win a case involving a financial settlement.

Public defenders

Any person in America who can’t afford to get a lawyer will always be given access to a public defender who will handle their case at no cost to the individual. This is a benefit that is guaranteed by the American constitution. Once you are presented in front of a judge and formally charged with a criminal offence, the judge will appoint a public defender to take your case.

Social justice organizations

There are lawyers with a passion for social justice and they often form or are a part of social justice organizations through which they will offer mostly free legal counsel on cases involving social injustice. Such cases will often depend on merit.

As an American citizen or a person living in America it will serve you well if you are familiar with such legal services because they will come in handy at some point in your life.

We trust that this has been an informative session.

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