CRJS 222 Chapter 8 Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in CRJS 222 Chapter 8 Deck (26):

Dual Court

One system of state and local courts and another system of federal courts.


Structure (Bottom to Top)

1. State Trial Courts
-Civil Division
-Criminal Division
-Probate Division
-Domestic Relations Division
-Juvenile Division
(small claims courts, municipal courts, traffic courts)
2. State Appeals Court
3. State Supreme Court


State Courts

1. Basic structure of most state courts similar
2. Most criminal cases begin in trial courts
3. Appeals usually heard in the state court of appeals (most states only have one)


American Indian Tribal Courts

1. 291 Tribal Courts
2. Over 500 judges
3. Limited Judicial Powers (Historically)
A.) Misdemeanor Cases- federal government prosecutes felonies
B.) Impose no more than a year in prison and $5,000 fine
4. Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010


The Federal Courts

1. The authority for the federal court system is in the Constitution
2. The System includes:
A.) The Supreme Court
B.) The federal court of appeals
C.) The federal district courts
D.) Military Courts/ Judge Advocate General's Corps
E.) Court Martial
F.) Governs all military personal


Federal Courts Power

Have jurisdiction to hear only limited types of cases
-Involve federal law or the federal Constitution
-Involve citizens of different states and at least $75,000 in controversy
-United States itself is a party


United States District Courts

1. Trials in federal district court are usually heard by a judge.
2. Federal criminal cases involve:
-Bank Robbery
-Mail Fraud
-Civil Rights Abuses


Circuit Court of Appeals

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.


Criminal Appeals

1. To appeal a conviction, the defendant files an appellate brief with the appeals court
2. Circuit courts of appeals review a case for errors of law, not of fact
- Prosecutor responds with a brief in which he argues that no legal errors were made
3. Panel of judges reads the appellate brief
- No jury in appellate courts, no evidence is presented, and no witnesses testify
- Decisions given after some time passes
4. They remand the case -- send it back to the trial court
5. Appellate court may uphold original decision
-Defendant may appeal to a higher appellate court
-Highest appeal level in the court of last resort--usually the state supreme court but sometimes the U.S. Supreme Court


The United States Supreme Court

Composed of
1. A chief justice
2. Eight associate justices
3. Each member of the court is appointed for life by the president and affirmed by the Senate.


The Courtroom Work group

1. Most federal judges are nominated by the president of the United States
2. State court judges are appointed, usually by the governor, or elected by voters.
-Both methods have critics
A.) Appointments /nominations criticized as based on personal/political views instead of qualifications
-Appointments / nominations criticized as based on person/political views instead of qualifications
-Elections criticized as politicizing judges and allowing monetary influence through campaigns


Key Actors in the Court Process

The three key actors in the court process are:
1. The judge
2. The prosecutor
3. The defense attorney


The Courtroom Work-Group (CWG)

1. Many formal customs in dealing with judges in the courtroom
2. If judge has a conflict of interest, must exercise recusal and turn case over to another judge
3. Serves as referee to ensure that the trial proceeds according to the rules of due process
4. Decide whether to issue search and arrest warrants


CWG- Judge's Job

5. Judge's job to decide all matters of law (not fact)
-decides what evidence may be admitted
-rules on various motions the attorneys make
-gives the jurors their instructions
-usually issues sentence if there is a conviction


CWG- Types of Judges

1. Judges of the Supreme Court called justices
2. No absolute qualifications for becoming a state or local judge
-Historically little or no law training
-Today nearly all judges have law degrees, and most have had extensive experience practicing law
3. Lack of diversity among judges is controversial
4. Both political left and right accuse judges they disagree with of "judicial activism"--using the courts to further their own personal or social agendas


CWG- Prosecutors

1. Have the power to bring formal criminal charges against someone
-If decline to bring charges, victim has little legal recourse, aside from a civil lawsuit
A.) Victim cannot stop a prosecutor from pursuing prosecution
-Prosecutors go by different names depending on jurisdiction
-Each federal district has a U.S. Attorney, an employee of the Department of Justice
2. Most states have an attorney general, the state’s head law enforcement officer
3. Most criminal prosecutions are at the local level
-Prosecutors most often called district attorneys
-Usually elected
-Oversee deputies or assistants that do most of the prosecuting


CWG- Prosecutor's Duty

1. Prosecutors have the duty all elements of a criminal charge beyond reasonable doubt
2. Have great degree of prosecutorial discretion (whether or not to try a case)
-Few constraints on prosecutorial discretion
3. Much debate over whether prosecutors should be elected or appointed


The Defense Attorney

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


Defense Attorney Duty

1. Defendant may argue own case if so wishes
2. Most defendants choose to have lawyer
3. Defense attorney argues case in court as well as other functions, such as pretrial investigation
4. Attorney-client privilege


The Defense Attorney and Defendant

1. Indigent (poor) defendants entitled to have government appoint and pay for their lawyer
A.) Some jurisdictions have public defenders
B.) Assigned counsel system—private law firms take indigent clients on a case-by-case basis
C.) Some jurisdictions use a contract method, in which firms or nonprofit agencies accept indigent cases for a set fee
2. Most felony defendants are poor and require appointed counsel


Types of Juries

1. Grand jury—sometimes investigates crimes and determines whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute a particular suspect
2. Petit jury—decides whether defendants are guilty of the crimes with which they are charged
3. A jury is composed of citizens in the trial court’s jurisdiction and are typically picked at random from lists of registered voters and licensed drivers



1. The venire is the pool of potential jurors
A.) Designed to be as representative of community as possible
2. Jury duty generally seen as burden by jurors, and can cause difficulty for certain types of laborers
3. Voir dire—process by which biased jurors are excused from the pool
4. Challenges for cause—elimination of jurors based on bias against defendant or prosecution


Jury- Peremptory Challenges

Release of jurors that may not be sympathetic to cause of defense or prosecution
-After trial, complete jury renders guilty or not guilty verdict



1. Most evidence comes from witnesses, or individuals with information pertinent to the trial
-Lay witnesses or eyewitnesses are people who heard or saw first-hand something directly related
A.) Can be anyone, including victims
B.) Subpoena may be issued to compel unwilling witnesses to testify; refusal can result in contempt of court
2. All eyewitness testimony is suspect due to bias, memory, and human error
3. Expert witnesses can express opinions based upon their specialized knowledge, research, and experience
4. Ideally impartial, but adversarial nature of proceedings puts great pressure on them


Victims in Court

1. Case is brought by the state against a defendant—state is legally the victim
-Victims can be compelled to testify by prosecution or risk being held in contempt


Victim Impact Statement

Final stage of victim involvement, given during sentencing