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Court System Paper

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The major historical developments of the U.S. courts

The development of the courts of the United States dates back to more than two centuries before the country had ratified a constitution to govern them. However, since its inception, the system of justice has gone a number of stages to develop it in an attempt to make its purpose of delivering justice to the American citizens more perfect. Before the adoption of the US constitution, this country used to be governed by the confederation articles. Under these articles, the functions of the government of the nation were vested in the congress, a legislature chamber. The executive and legislative powers acted together and therefore no separation of powers between the two. One of the major weaknesses that the articles demonstrated was the lack of a national judiciary (Cole & Smith, 2006).

In 1787, there was a Constitutional convention gathering in Philadelphia and it was then that the delegates had a common agreement that there should be the establishment of a national judiciary. There were significant disagreements in regard to the specific form that the judiciary that was being established would take.  The Virginia Plan was the first proposal that the constitutional convention was presented with. This had two sets of courts, the Supreme Court and lesser federal courts (Del Carmen, 2006). The challengers of this plan gave out the New Jersey Plan instead which featured a creation of one major federal supreme tribunal. This was because the supporters of the second plan did not like the proposal of junior federal courts as initially proposed (Hepburn, 2002). Their argument was that all first instance cases would be addressed by the state courts and any appeals would be handled by the supreme courts and this would be enough for protecting the national rights as well as providing fair judgments in the entire nation (Cole & Smith, 2006).

This led to a conflict between the nationalists and the advocates of the rights of the states and a resolution was arrived at by the Constitutional Convention as one of the series of compromises it had to tackle. This compromise that assisted the Constitutional Convection to resolve the matter was found in Article III of the Constitution and it states, “The judicial Power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” (Cole & Smith, 2006). 

After the ratification of the constitution, the federal judiciary matter was dealt with in a rapid manner. After the first congress convened in 1789, its first task was deliberation on the issue of judicial organization (Hepburn, 2002). The Senate Bill 1 discussion featured many participants as well as arguments that marched those of the Constitutional Convention regarding the judiciary (Cole & Smith, 2006). The major issue was the essence of the lower federal courts or their purpose would be served by the state courts. This was a great issue that led to a major division of the congress into two major groups. One of the groups was for the view that the federal law issues were to be handled by the state courts and should only move to the Supreme Court in the case of appeals and to them this would create an avenue for the new government interfering with the states’ rights (Del Carmen, 2006).  The second group that did not have confidence with the state courts feared that petitioners from other states and countries would be denied justice and hence their proposal for lower federal courts (Cole & Smith, 2006). Finally, the Judiciary Act Law of 1789 was finally established and this set forth the establishment of a judicial system that featured a Supreme Court (Chief Justice assisted by five associate justices), Circuit courts that were supposed to be three (each comprised of two Supreme court justices and one district judge) and thirteen district courts (each comprising a single district judge). It was then that the creation of lesser federal courts power was exercised with the congress creating two sets of lower courts rather than one as proposed initially (Cole & Smith, 2006).

The dual court system of the United States and the correlation between the previously described historical developments and the dual court system of the United States

The judiciary in the United States has one of most interesting, vital and probably most controversial feature which is the dual court system. This implies that each level of government, state and federal, poses its own set of law courts (Del Carmen, 2006). There those legal issues that are resolved in the state courts exclusively while others must be handled by the federal courts specifically. Lastly, there are those matters that may require the attention of the two tribunals and these are the ones that become controversial at times (Del Carmen, 2006). The described historical developments as described above featured the both the federal court and the state courts but there was another set of courts that was introduced. Initially there was the proposal of the inferior federal national courts based on the fact that there were a group of congress people who did not have confidence with the state courts in handling cases from other states and other countries as well. This was finally substituted by other two sets of courts which are the Circuit courts and the district courts. However the issue of the state courts was not eliminated totally and hence there was an aspect of dual court system in the history of the American courts.

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