U N I T E D   S T A T E S    C O U R T  


I.        Basic Nature of U.S. Courts

    A.    Courts as Political Institutions (but of a special kind)

    B.    Functions:   Basic Role:  To Decide Cases Under the Law

    C.    Duality and Wide Diversity

II. Structural Features

    A. Article III

    B. 1789 Judiciary Act

    C. Congressional Structuring of Federal Courts

        1. Trial Courts (federal courts throughout the states)

        2. Appellate Courts

        3. Specialized Courts (Bankruptcy Courts)

    D. Office of the Attorney General

        1. United States Attorneys

        2. Solicitor General       

    E. Duality of U.S. Courts

    F. Relationship Between Federal and State Courts 

        1.    Diversity Cases

        2.    Jumping the Federal Gap

        3.    Judicial Councils

    G. Hierarchical Nature of Courts

    H. Federal Court Administration

        1.    The Federal Judicial Conference

        2.    The Administrative Office of U.S. Courts

        3.    The Federal Judicial Center

    I.  Article I Courts

III. Jurisdiction of Federal Courts (Examples)

    A. Case Requirement

        1. adverse parties

        2. substantial legal interests

        3. real set of facts

        4. enforceable judicial determination of issue

    B. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

        1. U.S. law and Constitution

        2. U.S. treaties

        3. maritime cases

        4. admiralty cases

    C. Nature of Parties Jurisdiction   

ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls; to controversies to which the United States shall be a party;--to controversies between two or more states;--between a state and citizens of another state;--between citizens of different states;--between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.

IV. United States Supreme Court (a brief history)

    A. Original Jurisdiction

    B. Appellate Jurisdiction

    C. Choosing and Hearing Cases (Oyez, Oyez, Oyez)

    D. Personnel  


John Roberts, Chief Justice (2005)

        John Paul Stevens (1975)

        Antonin Scalia (1986)

        Anthony Kennedy (1988)

        Clarence Thomas (1991)

        Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1993)

        Stephen G. Breyer (1994)         

        Samuel Alito, Jr. (2006)

Sonia Sotomayor (2009)

V. State Courts - Colorado

    A. Structure (map)

        1. trial courts of general jurisdiction

        2. trial courts of limited jurisdiction

        3. intermediate appellate courts

        4. courts of final jurisdiction

    B. Jurisdiction

Key Web Sites

U.S. Courts Home Page

Judicial Branch - InfoUSA

Federal Judicial Home Page - FAQ's

Federal Judicial Home Page

National Center for State Courts: Web Sites

Legal Information Institute

Find the Law

National Center for State Courts

C-Span Court Page

Federal Courts Compared with State Courts