Difference Between State and Federal Courts (With Table)

While primitive ways of delivering justice still prevail in the nooks and corners of the world, most of us are part of a justice delivery system that employs modern techniques but still lags. The Court Structure in the US is fascinating yet a source of confusion. This is because their justice delivery system is divided between the Federal Court System and the State Court System.

State vs Federal Courts 

The difference between the State Courts and Federal Courts is that while both are a part of the federal system of the US Government, the former is constituted by the State’s Constitution, whereas the latter is constituted by the Constitution of the country. The former constitutes of the lower courts and the highest court as the Supreme Court. On the other hand, the latter also has a similar system but on a federal level.

State Courts are the courts that exist at a State-level. These Courts are created by the Constitution of the respective States and the laws of those States. Even in the States, the Supreme Court is the highest, and there are lower courts such as the trial courts. Their jurisdiction over subject matters, along with their powers, is relatively limited.

Federal Court System is created by the Constitution of the country. They, too, have a similar hierarchy of Courts but at a federal level. In fact, in addition to courts trying civil and criminal matters, some courts have been created for specific matters such as International Trade and Bankruptcy.

Comparison Table Between State and Federal Courts 

Parameters of ComparisonState CourtsFederal Courts
OperationThese courts are operative at a state-levelThese Courts are operative at a federal-level
Created byThese Courts are created by the respective State Constitutions and the laws of that StateThese Courts are created by the Constitution of the Country
Court of AppealsHere the dissatisfied parties can approach the intermediate Court of AppealsThe dissatisfied parties can approach the US Court of Appeals
Final AuthorityThe highest court in the State is the final authorityThe final authority here is the Supreme Court
Matters HeardCriminal, civil, and tortsIn addition to criminal and civil. It deals with matters of constitutional importance

What are State Courts?

State Courts are the courts that exist at a State-level. These Courts are created by the Constitution of the respective States and the laws of those States. Even in the States, the Supreme Court is the highest, and there are lower courts such as the trial courts. Their jurisdiction over subject matters, along with their powers, is relatively limited.

This system also involves a unique process of selecting judges. There are various ways of doing it, and such ways are by conducting an election, sometimes the appointment of a judge is only for a few years, sometimes it is for life, and a combination of all these methods can also be applied to select the judge.

Furthermore, the matters that they entertain are also limited and not as vast as the jurisdiction of the Federal Courts. The cases that are entertained by these courts are mostly criminal or civil. They also preside over matters involving family law and torts law.

In the States, when the State Courts have to deal with matters or laws that are unique to their State, then the Supreme Court of the State becomes the final authority. However, if there are matters that require the interpretation of federal laws, then the US Supreme Court has the final say.

What are Federal Courts?

These Courts generally have the final say in almost all matters of a federal nature. The Federal Court System is created by the Constitution of the country. They, too, have a similar hierarchy of Courts but at a federal level. In fact, in addition to courts trying civil and criminal matters, some courts have been created for specific matters such as International Trade and Bankruptcy.

The selection of judges here is not as unique as it is at the state level. Here the judges are nominated by the President. Thereafter, their nominations are confirmed by the Senate. This is a procedure that is enshrined in the Constitution of the US. They generally hold office for life, but it is subject to good behavior. If the judge involves himself in any activity that is unwonted for, then such a judge will be impeached. The Constitution of the country also lays down the procedure of such impeachment.

The matters that are entertained by these Courts are far grave and vast. The jurisdiction over subject matters is not just limited to cases that are of a civil or criminal nature. These courts also deal with matters that involve interpretation of the Constitution. Any laws and the treaties that were entered into by the US are also a part of its jurisdiction.

Main Differences Between State and Federal Courts 

  1. State Courts operate at a state level, whereas the Federal Courts function at a federal level.
  2. The State Courts are created by the Constitution of the respective States and the laws of those States. On the other hand, the Federal Courts are created by the Constitution of the country.
  3. The matters that are entertained by the State Courts are mostly criminal or civil. On the other hand, the jurisdiction of the Federal Courts is not just limited to cases that are of a civil or criminal nature. These courts also deal with matters that involve interpretation of the Constitution.
  4. The appointment of the judges in the State Courts can be made by conducting an election, appointing a judge only for a few years, or for life. In contrast, the judge in the Federal Courts is nominated by the President. Thereafter, their nominations are confirmed by the Senate.
  5. The State’s Supreme Court is the final authority when dealing with the interpretation of the State Constitution or laws. In Federal Courts, the US Supreme Court is the final authority in matters that aren’t unique to the states.

Conclusion

It does not always matter what structure the countries follow to deliver justice as long as they deliver it fast and efficaciously. But most often than not, countries fail at doing so. The US justice delivery system is unique in comparison to the rest of the world due to its federal structure. The Court Structure in the US is fascinating yet a source of confusion. This is because their justice delivery system is divided between the Federal Court System and the State Court System.

While both are a part of the federal system of the US Government, the former is constituted by the State’s Constitution, whereas the latter is constituted by the Constitution of the country. The former constitutes of the lower courts and the highest court as the Supreme Court. On the other hand, the latter also has a similar system but on a federal level. The matters these courts preside over are also different.

References

  1. https://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/sealr19&div=24&id=&page=
  2. https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.4159/9780674042247/html
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