Pennsylvania Federal and State Judicial Structure
The Constitution is the supreme law of the land in the United States. Our Founding Fathers understood the need for an independent Judiciary which was created under Article III. U.S. Courts are an independent national judiciary providing fair and impartial justice within the jurisdiction conferred by the Constitution and Congress. (Federal Judiciary, 2012)
Due to federalism, both the federal government and the state governments have their own court systems. The Constitution gives Congress the power to create federal courts other than the Supreme Court and to determine their jurisdiction. (Federal Judiciary, 2012)
There are three Federal level courts, Federal Trial Courts, Federal Appeals Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. It is Congress, not the judiciary, which controls the type of cases that may be addressed in the federal courts. This paper will focus on the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s federal court system and state judiciary structure.
United States district courts are the trial courts of the federal court system. In comparing federal and state court systems illustrated in table 1, the structures have some similarities. Within limits set by Congress and the Constitution, the district courts have jurisdiction to hear nearly all categories of federal cases including criminal matters involving human trafficking. There are 94 federal judicial districts, including at least one district in each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico (Federal Judiciary, 2012). Pennsylvania (PA) belongs to the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (3d Cir), a federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the districts courts in District of Delaware, District of New Jersey, Eastern District of PA, Middle District of PA, and Western District of PA.
The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania
The Pennsylvania court system is structured like a pyramid. Illustrated in Figure 1, at its base,...