Judicial Administration in America


For each country, the right organization of power in the state system plays an important role. In particular, this concerns the judicial system of the government. The American judicial administration occupies key positions in the system of state bodies. This paper aims to assess the significance and meaning of the work of the US judicial administration.  Judicial state sources and other different references were used to fully describe the judicial organization. However, two branches are directly controlled by the state, legislative and executive ones. The study shows that courts take final decisions on judicial matters related to law in the United States of America. The Supreme Court is one of the main state organs, which is responsible for judicial administration in the whole country.

Presently, the United States of America belongs to countries, which are dominated by a system of law, which is called a system of common or Anglo-Saxon law. It is characterized by a rather crucial function of judicial precedent. The appearance of the courts in the United States has been the object of constant criticism from experts and attacks by politicians, including those who rightly remained in American history as a symbol of political and socio-economic progress. Besides, there have been repeated attempts to subordinate the judiciary even in the later period, especially in the years after the Civil War of 1861-1865, between the bourgeois North and the slave-owning South (Beard, 2012). The independence of the US Supreme Court and the judicial system, in general, was under serious threat during the reign of President F. Roosevelt (1933-1945) (Beard, 2012). The Supreme Court was not officially introduced in the program of his election campaign. Thus, was the subject of special reflection of the President, as he was dissatisfied with the decisions taken by the Supreme Court in the United States of America on several important problems for the country. The head of the total judicial administration of federal courts is the US Supreme Court, which at the same time plays a remarkably central role in the whole construction of the highest state, along with the President and the US Congress. Therefore, the American courts in the judicial administration occupy exceptionally strong positions in the system of public authorities, because due to the separation of power they control the legitimacy of functioning of the other two branches, namely legislative and executive ones; hence, the courts make final decisions on all contentious issues of law in America.

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Structure of the Judicial Administration in the United States of America

In the United States of America, a unified federal system of courts and autonomous courts of each of the fifty states of the country, four federal territories, and the District of Columbia operate in parallel (Beard, 2012). The US federal court system comprises the Supreme Court, appellate and district courts, as well as special courts. The Supreme Court consists of nine judges, one of whom, by the will of the US President, holds the presidency. Each of the members of the Supreme Court in the United States of America is also appointed by the President and passes approval for the post in the Senate. Decision-making in the highest judicial body of the country is executed by a quorum of six votes.

The cases intended for consideration exclusively by the Supreme Court of the United States differ in practice quite a bit. The main function of the Supreme Court is to examine complaints that are submitted by lower-level federal and state courts, which are subject to federal issues being brought to bear on matters (Beard, 2012). In addition, the Supreme Court handles requests for the repeal of judgments of courts of any instance, if they are based on laws that are contrary to the US Constitution. Appeals courts, which are one of the main parts of the US judicial system, were established in 1891 (Black & Owens, 2012). To date, there are 13 courts of appeals in the country, each of which covers the territory of three to ten states and has its official number. Thus, there are four to twenty-three judges in each appellate court.

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The chairman is the judge who has been a member of this court for the longest time but has not crossed the threshold of the 70th anniversary. Appellate courts consider complaints about decisions and sentences passed by district courts, as well as various administrative bodies. Most often, a panel of three judges tries cases, but if it is not an appeal, then one or two judges may hear it. District courts are the main link in a large power mechanism called the US judicial system (Black & Owens, 2012). The entire territory of the United States of America is divided into separate counties about the borderlines of each state. Hence, this division implies the presence in one state of one to four districts. In addition, the US district courts operate in four foreign territories under the control of that country. In total, the judicial system in the United States of America includes 94 district courts (Black & Owens, 2012). Each of them employs between two and twenty-seven judges, and the chairman is elected according to the same rules as in the appellate court.

The district courts hear cases of criminal and civil nature in the first instance that fall within the competence of the federal agencies of justice. In addition, district courts consider complaints of citizens and organizations on the actions of various administrative departments. District courts create federal magistrates that perform auxiliary functions or independently settle the cases of minor crimes, the punishment of which cannot exceed a year of imprisonment or a $ 1,000 fine (Fukuyama, 2014). Moreover, since 1978, at each district court, additional bodies have been established to deal with t bankruptcy (Black & Owens, 2012). Besides, this category of cases is quite numerous. Complaints about the decisions of this unit are usually brought to the same district court under which it operates.

All states of the United States of America have their system of courts. The absence of a single vertical structure of courts is mostly due to the historical conditions in which the judicial system of each state was formed (Cole, Smith, & DeJong, 2017).  Often, they consist of two or three stages of the system of general courts, and they are complemented by different kinds of courts with special or limited jurisdiction (Carp, Stidham, & Manning, 2014). In the smaller states, a two-tier judicial system usually operates implying the existence of first-instance courts and a higher judicial body. The courts of the interim instance deal with complaints of sentences handed down by the courts of the first instance and other judicial institutions. In their composition, there are from 10 to 50 judges, and decisions are made by the colleges of three judges (Carp et al., 2014). A three-tier system with intermediate and appellate jurisdiction is typical for states with huge areas and large populations.

The given courts include 5-9 members, one of which is elected as a chairman. Thus, this court mainly handles appeals filed against decisions of lower courts. However, some procedural differences are still preserved (Cole et al., 2017). Therefore, it is regarded that a person seeks justice if he/she goes to court with a demand to oblige someone to perform legal actions or refuse to commit non-legal ones. However, if the plaintiff requires material compensation for the harm caused by illegal activities, that is the claim has a monetary expression, then the proceedings are performed according to the rules of common law (Fukuyama, 2014). Procedural norms of common law and the rights of justice differ in that the former is oral, and the latter is written (the judge works mainly with documents). It must be used at the request of at least one of the parties. In the absence of one of these conditions, the judge alone hears the case (Cole et al., 2017).  Unlike criminal cases, verdicts are announced by an absolute majority of the jurors (Fukuyama, 2014). An absolute majority of votes determines decisions. In case of the division of votes, the appealed decision or sentence remains valid.

Processes of Judicial Administration in the United States of America

Presently, there are twelve appeals courts in the United States of America of the common jurisdiction: one for an appellate district, which the country is divided into. Each district covers a territory of 3 to 10 states. It should be noted that one court's appeals are in the Federal District of Columbia. The appellate court consists of 4 to 23 trial processes. Furthermore, it is headed by the chairman, whose duties are performed by a judge who has worked for the longest term in this court, but who has not reached the age of 70. However, if the case is of particular interest, as well as in the event of resolving disputes between judges, plenary sessions of the Court of Appeal are convened.

In recent years, due to the increase in the number of cases brought to the courts of appeal, legislative measures have been taken to speed up the trials. For instance, in certain cases, a court may refuse to speak (Milakovich & Gordon, 2013). The result of the consideration of a complaint in the appellate court is either its satisfaction or rejection (Carp et al., 2014). In the process of considering a particular case, district and appellate federal courts may refuse to apply this or that law recognizing it unconstitutional.

The major functions of the Supreme Court processes are the consideration of appeals, hearing cases as a court of the first instance and finally, the implementation of constitutional control as well as interpretation of the US Constitution and federal laws. It should be borne in mind that the last two functions are realized only in the process of handling specific cases being derived from the first two functions, but they are very important in the mechanism of ‘checks and balances. It is necessary to note two main features of the judicial administration, namely the existence of a dualistic system of sources of law and the supremacy of federal legislation led by the US Constitution over state law (Law & Versteeg, 2012). The Supreme Court only considers about 150 of the approximately 5,000 annual appeals in various procedural forms (Cole et al., 2017). However, despite the legal differences in the procedures of the US Supreme Court as an appellate instance, they are united by the fact that within each procedure the jurisdiction of the Court is discretionary: the cause of any category is being taken to it at its discretion.

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Judicial Administration in the United States of America

In the process of consideration of specific criminal, civil and other cases in the United States of America, courts in the administration exercise constitutional control in the form of the verification of compliance with the applicable legal acts of the US Constitution (state courts also verify compliance with the Constitution of this state) (Carp et al., 2014). Already from the very beginning of its functioning, the US Supreme Court somehow touched upon the questions of constitutionality in its decisions. In 1796, for the first time, it specifically considered the issue of the conformity of the US Constitution to the Congress Act, taxing the coach and recognizing it as constitutional (Carp et al., 2014). In the same way, at the outset of the 19th century, there were about 20 precedents of recognition by courts of the provisions of legal acts as the ones that conflicted with the Constitution (Langbein, 2012). The United States of America has its peculiarities of constitutional control. Thus, the Supreme Court regards the issue of the constitutionality of the act not in independent proceedings, but only in connection with the hearing of any case hence deciding ‘the fate of the law based on the case.

Finally, as a result of the application of the norms of general law, the courts make decisions on compensation for harm, and by right of fairness order mandamus or prohibitions. In civil cases, a jury can only be executed on the suits the price of which exceeds $30 (Langbein, 2012). It should be used at the request of at least one of the parties. Unlike criminal cases, verdicts are announced by an absolute majority of the jurors. In district courts, there are magistrates established by the Act on the Federal Magistrates of 1968 instead of the former commissioners, who performed certain functions of notaries along with the judicial ones (Langbein, 2012). In contrast to the European countries, magistrates in the US mainly deal with the preparation of cases for hearing and monitoring the execution of court decisions. In addition, magistrates can essentially try criminal cases on charges of minor crimes, provided that the accused does not insist on hearing their cases by a district court judge. Federal appeals courts of general jurisdiction have been operating since 1891 and consider appellate complaints against decisions and verdicts of district federal courts (Langbein, 2012). Only in exceptional cases, which are specifically filed according to the law, complaints can be brought directly to the US Supreme Court bypassing the appellate courts and federal courts as well as decisions of the administrative justice bodies.

Each court employs from one to 30 or more judges. Cases are heard either by the judge alone or with the participation of jurors. The role of the jury in the United States of America is described in Amendments V, VI, and VII to the US Constitution (the first two are related to criminal proceedings, while the latter are associated with civil ones) (Carp et al., 2014). In criminal cases, jurors participate in two procedural forms: they pass the sentence to the court (Amendment V) and issue a verdict of guilt. The first involves the approval of the indictment by a grand jury in cases of crimes punishable by death, or other offenses (Howard, 2014). The rules of civil proceedings in district courts of the first instance are largely determined by the norms, which should be applied: the general law or the right to justice (Fukuyama, 2014). Echoes of this division of the whole array of legal norms have been preserved in the procedural law of the United States of America, although from the very inception of the United States as a state, a unified judicial system of the Union without the division of courts into courts of common law and the rights of justice was established.

The state courts have a similar power of constitutional control within the state. However, the Constitution of the United States does not directly fix these authorities of the courts. Besides, this judicial precedent appeared in 1803 for the first time (Cole et al., 2017). The Supreme Court ruled in support of the following necessities: first, the Constitution is a law subject to judicial interpretation, like any other law; secondly, the courts have the right to interpret the Constitution to decide cases by it (Fukuyama, 2014). Thirdly, in the event of contradictions between the Constitution and the law, the courts are required to apply the former as the ‘supreme law of the country or those laws that correspond to it (Enns, 2014). Consequently, this trial became the legal basis for the approval of constitutional control in the United States.

Significance of Judicial Administration in the United States of America

The United States of America's judicial system has two tiers: it includes a system of federal courts, as well as judicial systems of 50 states, the Federal District of Columbia, and four dependent territories. Courts of each of the systems act relatively independently or independently of each other (Henry, 2013). The US judicial administration of both levels is composed of courts of general jurisdiction. The competence of courts of the federal level and state courts is formally divided.

Nevertheless, the jurisdiction of federal courts in the United States of America is restricted; it is determined only by the range of cases provided by the US Constitution. At the beginning of the 19th century, in one of its decisions, the Supreme Court of the United States introduced the two categories of cases that are subordinate to federal courts (Huneeus, 2011). The first group consists of disputes, which are considered by federal courts, proceeding from the very nature of the case, that is, the subject of the dispute (Howard, 2014). In compliance with this criterion, the federal judiciary extends to all cases arising based on the US Constitution, federal laws, and international treaties, as well as ‘maritime affairs’ (related to sufficiency in the high seas) and the affairs of the Admiralty (disputes concerning the issues of sea cargo transportation, the maintenance of ports, fishing, etc.).

The second category of cases related to the jurisdiction of federal courts incorporates disputes in which the subjects enumerated in the Constitution participate. The principle of the separation of power is the most important constitutional foundation of the US legal system (Pildes, 2011). In civil law, the exclusive jurisdiction of federal courts extends, for example, to ‘maritime and admiral’ affairs, suits against the United States as a state, breach of copyright and patent law, claims connected with bankruptcy, and suits in which the state or a foreign diplomat acts as a party. The remaining categories of cases form the so-called conceding jurisdiction; thus, at the choice of the interested party, the case can be initiated either in the relevant federal district court or in the court of the first instance of the state where the federal district court functions (Milakovich & Gordon, 2013). At the request of the respondent, a civil action in the case falling under competing for jurisdiction may be transferred to the federal district court after it is submitted to the state court. In doctrine and jurisprudence, this is justified by the formulated rule clause.

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Finally, the significance of judicial administration lies in the rule of law clause. Hence, state courts are required to interpret federal laws when necessary, and sometimes even declare them inapplicable because of the incompatibility of the federal Constitution. At the same time, they are obliged not to apply laws and provisions of the Constitution of their state, if they contradict the US Constitution or federal laws (Tarr, 2012). All those solutions are subject to state review in the Supreme Court. The main functions of courts of general jurisdiction in the United States of America are not only the resolution of specific legal disputes but also the implementation of constitutional control, as well as the interpretation of the Constitution. The US Constitution is in the first place in the hierarchy of sources of American law; it has the highest legal force. That is why the principles provided by it are the basis of the legal administration of the United States (Casillas, Enns, & Wohlfarth, 2011). At the same time, this clause predetermines the decisive role of federal courts, primarily the Supreme Court of the United States, in exercising the constitutional control and interpretation of the US Constitution.

The importance of judicial administration and its relative independence from the federal judicial system and state judicial systems are manifested in the fact that decisions of state courts cannot be appealed by federal courts and vice versa. Exceptions are the complaints on the cases affecting the federal constitutional issue, which can be tried by the Supreme Court (Milakovich & Gordon, 2013). A special case is the habeas corpus complaints concerning the lawfulness of the detention of accused persons in custody. They can be filed with the federal district court (Tarr, 2012). If the complaint is satisfied, the courts that violated the rules of detention, namely those who have illegally restricted someone’s freedom, the right to which is the most important constitutionally recognized human right, are deprived of jurisdiction, and the relevant case is essentially examined in the federal district court.

In the United States of America, the concept of administration includes the executive power, headed by the President and Vice President. In a narrow sense, this term corresponds to the Executive Office of the President created in 1939 by the decree of Franklin Roosevelt (Fukuyama, 2014). He reports directly to the head of state and is called upon to aid him in ensuring the effective governance of the country. Employees provide advisory assistance in the formation of state policy and are responsible for numerous issues, ranging from the transfer of the President’s opinion to the general public to the protection of the US trade interests abroad (Tarr, 2012). Thus, the executive office incorporates presidential assistants and advisers, as well as support staff.


In the United States of America, a two-tiered judicial system has historically evolved, presupposing the presence in each state of both federal courts and state courts. At the same time, the US Supreme Court, which consists of nine judges, is the highest judicial body. The American Constitution laid the foundation for a single centralized federal judicial system, which comprises three links: district courts, appeals courts, and the US Supreme Court. Consequently, according to the Constitution, judges are appointed by the President on the recommendation and with the consent of the Senate for life. They can be removed from office only as a result of the impeachment procedure. The Supreme Court in the United States of America is characterized by a written procedure for the consideration of the case, which does not require the presence of parties, witnesses, and other acts that are binding on the judicial procedure. Therefore, the Supreme Court extensively uses its discretionary function - the right to hear the cases that contain a ‘federal matter’ at their discretion. In addition, the Supreme Court is the highest appellate instance, which verifies the decisions and sentences of lower courts.

As a court of the first instance, it handles disputes between two or more states, between the federal government and state governments, as well as the cases instituted by one state against citizens of another one or foreigners. The Supreme Court in the United States of America completed a chief involvement in the defense of civil rights and the abolition of racial discrimination. The judicial system of the states is extremely diverse since it is determined based on its constitution and local laws. The competence of state courts includes all civil cases and crimes that violate state laws. American courts do not constitute a single judicial system. Hence, several systems are independent of one another. Often, the same case is subject to two or more duplicating judicial bodies. The main thing is that in parallel there are a federal court system and independent judicial systems of 50 states, the District of Columbia, and four federal territories. Thus, the judicial administration plays a key role in the jurisprudence of the United States of America.

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