among a group of people, the jury's decision is likely to have
the input from many different people from different backgrounds,
who must as a group, decide what is right.
The Juries are used in both civil cases, which decide disputes
among private citizens, and criminal cases, which decide cases
brought by the government alleging that individuals have committed
All US citizens are liable to be selected for jury duty. A person
may be exempted when:
The judge assigned
to the case oversees the selection of jurors to serve as the jury
for that case. In some states, the judge questions prospective jurors;
in others, the lawyers representing the parties under rules dictated
by state law question the jurors.
the juror is ill, or when on account of serious illness
in the juror's family, the presence of the juror is required
the juror's attendance would cause a serious financial
loss to the juror or to the juror's business; or
the juror is under an emergency, fairly equivalent to
those mentioned in the above paragraphs.
The US justice system operates at two separate levels of courts,
the State and the Federal courts. The case is tried in either of
the courts depending upon the law, state of federal, that was violated.
The laws that govern day to day living are state laws, and the violation
of federal laws include offences involving federal government employees,
crimes committed across state lines (for example, kidnapping or
evading arrest), and fraud involving the national government (such
as income tax or postal fraud).
There are two kinds of trials: Criminal and Civil.
Criminal Trial: In a criminal trial, the Government prosecutes
an individual for an offence that threatens the security of individual
citizens or the society as a whole. Usually, criminal trials involve
actions taken because of wicked intent, although cases of extreme
negligence are considered criminal.
Civil Trial: In a civil trial, the dispute is usually between
In both criminal and civil cases, the person charged is the defendant.
In criminal trials, the government is the prosecution. In civil
trials, the party initiating the action is the plaintiff.
State level trials
Although each state is free to arrange its own court system (within
certain constitutionally defined boundaries), most states justice
systems have several features in common. The lowest level court
in trials where state law is alleged to have been violated is
the trial court sometimes referred to as Superior Court or Supreme
Court Trial Division. This is the only court with the power to
determine the facts involved in a case .If either party involved
in the case feels that the trial judge made an error in one of
his rulings, they can appeal, or bring the case to a Court of
Appeals (or Supreme Court Appellate Division in some states).
Whereas trials are focused around the testimony of witnesses concerning
their actions or observations, appeals feature two attorneys attempting
to convince a panel of five judges that the law favors their side.
The only issue in a Court of Appeals is whether correct trial
procedure was followed; attorneys prepare written briefs citing
historical precedents and rulings to persuade the panel of judges
to rule in their favor. If unsatisfied with the appellate court's
ruling, a party can ask for a Writ of Certiorari, which is essentially
an appeal to the state Supreme Court. The Supreme Court Justices
have the option of whether or not they wish to hear the case;
four Justices must vote to hear it in order to have it brought
before the Court. The procedure at this level is similar to that
at the appeals court; each attorney addresses the panel of Justices,
which can interrupt at almost any time with questions. The ruling
of the U.S. Supreme Court is final, though a future Court may
overturn that decision.
Federal Level Trials
In cases on the federal level, the action again begins at federal
trial courts. Cases can be appealed from there to the U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals, of which there are 13 throughout the country.
Rulings of this court can again be appealed to the Supreme Court.
One of the
primary reasons that parties in a case might appeal their case
to the Supreme Court is because they feel that the law, which
they violated, was unconstitutional. The United States Supreme
Court alone has the power to strike down Federal or state laws
that it finds to be contrary to the United States Constitution.
In that sense, the judicial system is the guardian of civil liberties