State Court Organization
U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Prorams
Bureau of Justice Statistics
State Court Organization, 1998
By David B. Rottman
Carol R. Flango
Melissa T. Cantrell
Jan M. Chaiken, Ph.D.
This Bureau of Justice Statistics report
was prepared by the National Center for
State Courts under the Supervision of
Steven K. Smith and Marika F.X. Litras
of the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The
project was supported by BJS grant
number 98-BJ-CX-K002. Principle staff
for the project at the National Center for
State Courts were David B. Rottman,
Ph.D., Carol R. Flango, Melissa T.
Cantrell, Randall Hansen, and Neil
LaFountain. Tom Hester and Carol
DeFrances of BJS provided editorial
review. Jayne Robinson administered
This report was made possible by the
support and guidance of the Court
Statistics Committee of the
Conference of State Court
Please bring suggestions for information
that should be included in future editions
to the attention of the Director of the
Court Statistics Project, National Center
for State Courts, 300 Newport Avenue,
Williamsburg, Virginia 23187-8798.
An electronic version of this report may
be found on the Internet at
This volume like its three predecessors is a product of the
court community. The Conference of State Court Administrators
sponsors the State Court Organization series and makes
available its Court Statistics Committee to guide compilation
of each edition. Committee members participated in selecting
the contents of the volume, designing the data collection
strategy, and volunteered their states for pilot testing of
survey instruments. At meetings and through mailing the
Committee provided an on-going check on the accuracy and
usefulness of the volume's contents. The bulk of the volume
and the detailed nature of the contents make the Committee
members' contribution above and beyond that which can
reasonably be expected, even of members of a committee
devoted to court statistics.
The state court administrators of the 50 states, District of
Columbia, and Puerto Rico and their staff, the more than 135
clerks and deputy clerks of appellate courts, and staff from
the Administrative Office of the United States Courts were
the original source for most information included in the
volume. In that capacity, administrators and clerks
completed surveys, updated forms, and responded to requests
for clarification and elaboration by telephone, fax and email
over a twelve-month period. The generosity of their
investment of time and effort and the patience with which
they endured what must have seemed an endless process of
clarification and verification are greatly appreciated.
Staff from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and especially
Dr. Marika Litras, our project monitor, shared their
expertise in survey design and the display of information in
print and on the Web. As a result, this edition is easier on
the eye and easier to access than were previous editions. The
Bureau's funding makes the entire SCO enterprise possible.
The NCSC's Information Service gave access to its records of
recent information requests and offered recommendations in
the search for new topics for the 1998 edition. We were also
able to rely upon our colleagues in the NCSC Research
Division to identify and frame questions to tap emerging
trends within the state courts. Particular thanks are due
Pamela Casey, Paula Hannaford, Susan Keilitz, Brian Ostrom,
Tom Munsterman, Dawn Spinozza, and Karen Way. Lin Walker
provided the information on court automation in Table 21 and
John Rockwell the information on cameras in the courtroom in
At various stages along the way we also were able to draw
upon the talents of other colleagues. We are grateful to
Karin Armstrong, Catina Burrell, Tom Carlson, Margaret
Fonner, Lynn Grimes, Valerie Hansford, and Pam Petrakis.
Despite all of this guidance, advice, and assistance,
responsibility for the accuracy of all of the contents of
this volume rests with the project staff.
David B. Rottman
Melissa T. Cantrell
Carol R. Flango
Conference of State Court Administrators, Court Statistics
Hugh M. Collins Chair (1982 to present)
Judicial Administrator, Louisiana
J. Denis Moran, Co-Chair (1983 to present)
Director of State Courts, Wisconsin
John A. Clarke (1988 to present)
Trial Court Administrator, Essex County, New Jersey
Howard W. Conyers (1990 to present)
Administrative Director of the Courts, Oklahoma
Marc Galanter (1986 to present)
Evjue-Bascom Professor of Law, University of Wisconsin
Daniel J. Hall (1990 to present)
Director of Planning, Colorado
Mary McQueen (1999 to present)
State Court Administrator, Washington
Judge Aaron Ment (1991 to present)
Chief Court Administrator, Connecticut
William J. O'Brien (1994 to present)
State Court Administrator, Iowa
John T. Olivier (1991 to present)
Deputy Clerk, Supreme Court of Louisiana
Howard P. Schwartz (1992 to present)
Judicial Administrator, Kansas
Joseph C. Steele (1999 to present)
State Court Administrator, Nebraska
Patricia Tobias (1999 to present)
Administrative Director of the Courts, Idaho
Robert Wessels (1995 to present)
Court Manager, Texas
National Center for State Courts Board of Directors
Chief Justice E. Norman Veasey, Chair
Supreme Court of Delaware
Howard W. Conyers, Vice-Chair
Administrative Director, Oklahoma
Chief Justice Gerald W. VandeWalle, Chair-elect
Supreme Court of North Dakota
Judge Roberto A. Arias
Judge, Duval County Courthouse, Florida
King & Spalding, Georgia
Deputy State Court Administrator, Maryland
Chief Justice David A. Brock, Past Chair
Supreme Court of New Hampshire
Judge Kevin S. Burke
Hennepin County District Court, Minnesota
David K. Byers
Administrative Director, Supreme Court of Arizona
Justice William Cousins
Illinois Appellate Court
Justice Ann K. Covington
Supreme Court of Missouri
Gordon M. Griller
Court Administrator, Arizona
Judge William G. Kelly
U.S. District Court Judge, Michigan
Jack. B. Middleton
McLane, Graf, Rauleron & Middleton, New Hampshire
Chief Judge Thelma Cummings Moore
Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia
Presiding Judge Gayle A. Nachtigal
Circuit Court of Washington County, Oregon
Key Investment, Inc., Minnesota
Kenneth R. Palmer
State Court Administrator, Florida
Louise M. Parent, Exec. Vice-President & General Counsel
American Express, New York
Carroll D. Stevens
Associate Dean, Yale Law School, Connecticut
Judge Sandra Ann Thompson
Los Angeles Municipal Court, California
Ruth Walsh McIntyre
William C. Vickrey, Past Vice-Chair
State Court Administrator, California
Chief Judge Annice M. Wagner
District of Columbia Court of Appeals
Roger K. Warren
President, National Center for State Courts
Court Manager, Texas
Courts and judges
In 1998, there were 208 statewide general and limited
jurisdiction trial court systems in the United States, the
District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. About 9,065 full time
authorized judges served in the 71 statewide trial court systems
of general jurisdiction alone.
- In 1998, there were 132 courts of appeal, including the U.S.
Supreme Court and U.S. Courts of Appeal. The combined full-time
Federal and State appellate bench in 1998 had a reported 1,474
members. About 75% or 1,108 appellate judges served on
intermediate appellate courts.
Judicial selection and service
- General jurisdiction trial judges were selected through nonpartisan
elections in 18 and through partisan elections in 10
of the 50 States in 1998. In 15 States, general juridiction
trial court judges were selected by gubernatorial appointment
and in 3 States by appointment by State legislatures. The
remaining States varied in their method of selection.
- General jurisdiction trial court judges must possess a law
degree in all but 2 States -- Maine and Massachusetts.
- Twenty one (42%) of the 50 States selected their appellate
judges through a gubernatorial appointment and 3 by legislative
appointment in 1998. An additional 14 States used non-partisan
elections, 8 partisan elections and 4 retention elections.
- Initial/pre-bench education for general jurisdiction judges
was required in 30 States (including Puerto Rico), for limited
jurisdiction judges in 31 States, and in 9 States for appellate
judges. Continuing education for general jurisdiction judges
was required in 44 States, for limited jurisdiction judges in
42 States, and in 38 States for appellate judges
- By 1998, 18 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico
had formal provisions for an ongoing evaluation of judicial
- All States had judicial conduct organizations which
investigated complaints against members of the judiciary. Most
of these organizations were composed of about 5 to 15 members
including judges, lawyers and ordinary citizens.
The judicial branch
- Every State has a judicial branch which is headed by the court
of last resort in 13 States, the Chief Justice of the court of
last resort in 36 States, and in one State, Utah, the Judicial
Council. In the majority of States (33), the head of the
judicial branch is established by the State Constitution. In
the remaining States, authority is established either by State
statue or some combination of both.
- In 1998, 20 States had a compensation commission that examined
and reported on the salaries of judges. Fourteen of these
commissions had broader mandates, also examining and reporting
on non-judicial public officials. Six States by 1998 has
created commissions specifically for judicial compensation
- In most States the Administrative Office of the Courts
prepared the judicial branch budget (33 States, the District of
Columbia, and Puerto Rico), generally followed by a review of
the budget submissions by the State's Court of Last Resort. In
most States, the judicial branch budget is either included in
a general appropriation bill or included in one of several
bills. Only in 14 States is it filed as a separate
- On average in 1998, judicial budgets accounted for about 1.5%
of State budget appropriations, ranging from 0.1% in Washington
to 3.6% in Oregon.
- In more than 8 in 10 statewide trial courts of general
jurisdiction during 1998, judicial salaries were funded totally
by State sources. By contrast, in just under half of Statewide
trial courts of limited jurisdiction, judicial salaries were
funded totally by State sources, about one third by local
sources, and the remaining by either county funding sources or
some combination of the three.
State appellate court systems
- The courts of last resort in the State appellate systems
ranged in size from 5 to 9 judges in 1998. A majority of State
courts of last resort had 7 members, including the most populous
States, California and New York. Iowa, Mississippi, and
Washington had 9 Justices.
- A common State response to increasing appeals is to create an
intermediate court of appeals. In 1998, 35 States had 1
intermediate court of appeal (including Puerto Rico), 5 States
had 2, while 12 States had no intermediate court of appeal
(including the District of Columbia).
- Appellate courts typically have an appointed clerk of the
court. Only in the Supreme Court of Indiana and the regional
intermediate appellate courts of Ohio are popular elections used
to select appellate court clerks.
- Appellate courts implement various strategies to make the
workload of appellate courts more efficient. Thirty seven
States, by 1998, for example, had some expedited briefing
procedures in their appellate court systems. Eighteen States
had accelerated or special calendars in some courts for specific
case types, and all but 12 States had some limitation on oral
arguments in criminal and/or civil cases.
Trial court clerks
In 1998, there were over 7,500 clerks in state trial courts.
Over half of these clerks served in trial courts of limited
jurisdiction. Typically, trial court clerks have the
responsibility for docketing cases, collecting court fees,
overseeing jury selection, and maintaining all court records.
- Partisan elections were used to select clerks of general
jurisdiction trial courts in 27 States and non-partisan
elections in an additional 4 States. General jurisdiction trial
court clerks were appointed in 19 States, the District of
Columbia, and Puerto Rico. In the remaining States, selection
of these clerks varied.
There were 327 drug courts across 43 States, the District of
Columbia and Puerto Rico in 1998. The majority of drug courts
were established between 1992 and 1996. During 1998, drug
courts were established in Maine and Mississippi.
By 1998, all but 17 States had family courts that served some
number of counties, districts, or were statewide. These courts
typically had jurisdiction over domestic and marital matters
such as divorce, child custody and support, and domestic
- There are currently over 450 tribal justice forums among the
556 Federally recognized tribes in the United States. Sixteen
States have assumed mandatory or optional jurisdiction over
tribal lands, pursuant to Public Law 280.
- A defense of insanity was allowed in 48 of the 50 States, the
District of Columbia and Puerto Rico in 1998.
Only Idaho and Utah had no insanity defense provision.
- When determining the defendant's capacity to stand trial, the
majority of States require a preponderance of evidence -- the
burden of proof typical in a civil trial. Ten States provide
for a bifurcated trial where the elements of the crime are
decided in one proceeding and the determination of insanity in
a separate proceeding.
- In most States, the defendant carries the burden proof in an
insanity defense trial, while the plaintiff carries this burden
in 12 States.
- In 18 States in 1998, post trial treatment was mandatory for
all or some defendants.
- In 1998, voter registration was the most common source, though
not the only source, used by States to create a master list of
potential jurors. Other sources included motor vehicle
registration, telephone directories, and tax rolls.
- In most States, the minimum age to serve on a jury was 18.
The minimum age in Missouri and Montana, however, was 21 years
of age. There was some residency requirement to serve on a jury
in all States, and literacy and/or language requirements in all
but 8 States.
- In 8 States employers were responsible, at least partially,
for maintaining the salaries of employees while on jury duty.
Daily fees paid to serving jurors ranged from $2.00 to $50.00
- Grand jury indictments for all felony prosecutions were
required in 14 States and in an additional 4 States
for capital and/or life imprisonment cases. The size of grand
juries ranged from 6 members in Indiana to
23 members in Maryland and Massachusetts.
The sentencing context
- In non-capital felony cases, original sentences were set by
a jury in 46 States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico,
and by a judge in 6 States. The judge can alter the jury
sentence or recommendation in 4 States -- Arkansas, Indiana,
Kentucky and Missouri.
- Of the 37 States with the death penalty in capital felony
cases during 1998, original sentences were set by a jury in 23
States, by a judge in 5 States, and by a judge with the
recommendation of the jury in 7 States. In Missouri and New
Mexico either a jury or a judge may impose a sentence of death.
In all States where the sentence was set by a jury, the decision
must be unanimous. If the jury cannot reach an agreement, life
without parole is available in 12 States. A judge can alter a
jury sentence of death in 12 States.
- Some type of intermediate sanctions were available in all 50
States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Intensive
probation and/or work release was available in 47 States and
Puerto Rico, house arrest and/or electronic monitoring in 48
States and the District of Columbia, and shock incarceration in
- By 1998, active sentencing commissions had been established
in 17 States. All but 1, South Carolina, had sentencing
guidelines. In most States these guidelines were mandatory with
room for justified deviations.
- In 1998 collateral consequences for felony convictions were
in place in all States. In most States, a felony conviction was
associated with the restriction of voting rights, parental
rights, public employment, jury duty service, and firearm
What is the purpose of the volume?
This volume, the fourth edition in a series, describes the
highly diverse world of the state courts as of July 1, 1998,
while also providing some corresponding information on the
federal courts. Information distributed across 50 tables
details the main features of how courts operate, ranging from
the names of the various courts established in each state to
whether jury verdicts must be unanimous to convict in
criminal cases or to decide on liability in civil matters.
Such fundamental matters vary from state to state, and
between the state courts and the federal system--there is no
single, uniform court system in the United States.
One reason, then, for compiling the State Court Organization
series (previous editions refer to court organization in
1980, 1987, and 1993) is to provide answers in a single
volume to fundamental questions about what each state's court
system looks like: How many appellate and trial courts have
been established? What specific categories of cases does
each court have the jurisdiction to decide?
A second purpose for compiling State Court Organization is to
permit comparative examination of how courts are organized.
Information on how court administration and procedure are
organized assists states in effecting change by identifying
options and specific examples for their consideration.
Most states have two appellate courts and at least two trial
courts, but differ in such basics as where jurisdiction over
juvenile cases is found and whether civil appeals are heard
as a matter of right or at the discretion of the reviewing
appellate court. The essential point is that these matters
are not standardized across the United States. The federal
system and individual states have evolved, knocking against
one another from time to time in ways that lead to some
shared tendencies, but no uniformity. To a limited extent,
the federal court system offers a prototype that states can
follow. This edition of State Court Organization encourages
and facilitates examination of federal and state approaches
to court administration, procedures, and rules.
There is still much about state courts that continues to be
rooted in geographical areas within states, defined by
counties, townships, cities, or other forms of local
government. The more important points of variations within
states are noted, such as methods for judicial selection,
sometimes in the table proper but more often through the use
of footnotes in the tables.
A third purpose for this volume is to address noteworthy
features of statutes and policy that affect how the courts
function. In this edition, emphasis is placed upon the
sentencing context: the provisions of state constitutions,
statutes, and court rules that govern how sentences are
imposed and reviewed on appeal. This encompasses options
provided for sentencing. "What is the most serious penalty
other than the death penalty?" What specific sentencing
provisions exist for "habitual offenders"? What is the array
of intermediate sanctions that judges (and in some states,
juries) can impose? Other features of the sentencing process
considered include the presence of sentencing guidelines, the
jurisdiction of each trial court to sentence felons, and the
manner in which sentences, once imposed, can be reviewed.
Parole or "good time" provisions that affect sentence length
are also outlined.
Another topic given emphasis is how the judicial branch is
governed. Who is the head of the judicial branch? What
official or institution formulates and submits the budget for
operating the courts? What items of trial court expenditure
are funded by the state and which are financed either by
local government or from court fees? What is the rule-making
authority of state courts of last resort? What use is made
of judicial councils and conferences in setting policy for
the courts? At the level of individual trial courts is the
clerk of court, an independently elected official or an
appointee of the bench? What is the formal relationship
between the clerk of court and the trial court administrator?
What is the authority of presiding or administrative judges?
The advent of professional trial court managers-administrators,
clerks, and judges who view much of their
role as managerial--is one of the more significant waves of
change that buffeted the nation's courts in recent decades.
The governance of the judicial branch is becoming a more
substantial undertaking that merits close description.
Yet another emphasis is on the jury. The role of the grand
jury has generally diminished in the initiation of felony
court cases, but the institution retains considerable
significance in some states. Trial court juries retain their
importance in both civil and criminal matters, but juries
have changed in how they are selected and in their size and
verdict rules. Does a jury need to be unanimous, or can a
verdict be returned by a majority of the jurors?
A 12-person jury required to reach a unanimous verdict
is no longer typical. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a series
of opinions during the 1960s, relaxed requirements that
verdicts be unanimous and rendered by 12-person juries.
Today, there is marked variation among states and also,
within many states by the type of case (felony versus
misdemeanor, for example). The main dynamic today is
in efforts to enhance the representativeness of jury
pools and ease the burdens associated with jury service.
This is reflected in changes to the source lists from which the
jury pool is drawn, the elimination of occupational
exemptions, and improved levels of juror fees. Which
states have eliminated occupational exemptions from jury
service? What obligations do employers have to pay the
regular salaries of employees who serve on juries?
New topics covered in this volume include the proliferation
of specialized courts, new legislative mandates in the
adjudication of domestic violence cases, current standards
regarding the insanity defense, and efforts in automating
court information systems. To support the three purposes
just described, State Court Organization 1998 expands the
coverage of court administration and court procedure by
introducing four new tables. New topics include judicial
compensation commissions, clerks of court
responsibilities for providing services to appellate courts,
the authority of trial court administrative
judges, and standards and procedures governing the
use of the insanity defense in criminal cases. In
addition, the format for reporting on automation in the
courts has been completely revised.
A fourth purpose for compiling this volume is to provide
authoritative base-line information through which important
changes in the nation's courts can be tracked. The 1998
edition of State Court Organization gives particular
attention to the growing importance of specialized state
court forums. Special forums are divisions, dockets,
courtrooms or procedures dedicated to a designated set of
cases and to which a specific judge has been assigned by a
court's presiding or chief judge. Such forums typically are
created through local court rules or custom, and carry the
label of "court" as a matter of convenience. Information is
included on two such forums: drug courts and
family courts. Special provisions for processing
domestic violence cases are also described.
Finally, three topics included in the 1993 edition have been
omitted from the new edition: state/federal judicial
councils, the characteristics of "RICO" statutes, and the
making of the trial court record. The latter topic will be
covered in future editions of the State Court Organization
A truly comprehensive volume on the nation's courts would
include the military criminal justice system because U.S.
military personnel worldwide are subject to the Uniform Code
of Military Justice. Appellate courts have narrowed the
jurisdiction of military courts to "service-connected "
offenses, but some potential for overlap with the state and
federal courts remains. Individual commands operate their
own trial courts, convened as needed. The Court of Military
Appeals in Washington D.C. is the one standing court. The
U.S. Congress provided, in 1984, for appeals from the Court
of Military Appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court via a writ of
certiorari (R.C.M. 1205).
How should the volume be used?
The 1998 edition of State Court Organization contains 397
items of information (up from 344 items in 1993)
spread across 50 tables. These tables are divided into seven
parts according to broad topical areas:
Part I: Courts and Judges
Part II: Judicial Selection and Terms
Part III: The Judicial Branch: Governance, Funding,
Part IV: Appellate Courts: Jurisdiction, Staffing, and
Part V: Trial Court Administration and Procedures
Part VI: The Jury
Part VII: The Sentencing Context
An eighth part contains a one page court structure chart for
each state, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. The
charts complement the information provided in the tables by
depicting for each state the essential structure of its court
system in terms of subject matter jurisdiction and routes of
Each part begins with a brief explanatory note. A
bibliography of sources used in the data collection or that
cover subject matter particularly relevant to the topic under
consideration is offered The introductions indicate why the
information provided in a section is important to understand
the nation's courts and how that information relates to the
contents of other parts. Another objective is to highlight
some of the factors that affect compara- bility across
states, and between the state and federal systems, for the
specific subject area being considered.
Two kinds of tables are presented. One is formatted to
describe what is defined at the state level, such as the
juror source lists, definitions of a felony offense, the
functions of administrative offices of the courts, and other
aspects of court organization that apply to all appellate or
trial courts within a state.
The second kind of table reports on features that differ from
court to court within a state, such as the number of judges,
or procedures for selecting a presiding judge. The "court"
in trial court generally applies to a statewide court system-
-for example, the Circuit Court of Virginia is divided into
31 circuits each serving a specific geographical area. Some
trial courts, though, include an entire state within their
geographic jurisdiction, as in the Tax Court of New Jersey.
Appellate courts are more typically statewide in their
jurisdiction, but intermediate appellate courts are
established on a regional basis in
Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana,
Missouri, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas,
Washington, and Wisconsin. In these states, intermediate
appellate courts may establish rules and procedures that vary
between regions (usually called a district or division).
A few states have multiple intermediate appellate courts
(Alabama, New York, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee) and two
states--Oklahoma and Texas--have two courts of last resort.
Some tables contain extensive footnotes. Footnotes appear
in tables that cover topics for which a simple answer was
deemed unhelpful, and consideration of the footnote's content
is necessary to make comparisons across states or to grasp
fully the nature of the arrangements that pertain in
A general cautionary statement is offered here. This volume
covers an unusually diverse set of topics. There is no
single state authority that maintains current and complete
information on each topic. Therefore several sources were
contacted in each state and extensive searches were
undertaken of court rules and state statutes.
How was the volume compiled?
The contents for this edition were selected and the
relevant data collected through the following main steps.
The first step was a project staff review of contents from
previous State Court Organization editions. In the course of
that review in March of 1998 all members of the Conference of
State Court Administrators were asked in a survey to express
their opinions on the merits of the usefulness of all
individual information items published in State Court
Organization 1993 and to nominate additional topics that
could usefully be included in the new edition. Some
information items were judged to be essential for the
continuity of the series, new information was identified to
keep pace with the changing shape and interests of the court
community, and still other information items were found to be
of limited contemporary interest. These decisions were made
in consultation with other National Center for State Court
staff members, organizations such as the Federal Judicial
Center, and relevant academic and research experts in courtrelated
topics. Staff from the Bureau of Justice Statistics
also participated in the review process.
A tentative list of information contents was compiled by
project staff and then reviewed in detail by the members of
the Conference of State Court Administrator's Court
Statistics Committee. At a subsequent meeting, the Committee
members reviewed the data collection design and drafts of
data collection instruments.
The chosen information items were divided according to the
most reliable and cost-effective data collection method.
Those methods were:
- A survey of administrative offices of the court was
designed for distribution by mail to the state court
administrators of the 50 states, the District of Columbia,
Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Administrative Office of the
Courts. The questionnaire, which was mailed on December 4,
1998, dealt with aspects of court organization that are
primarily administrative in nature and either new to the 1998
edition or likely to have changed significantly since 1993.
The questionnaire used a different format than the one
developed for the 1993 version with help from Bureau of
Justice Statistics staff. Various versions of the new survey
were pilot-tested through the cooperation of states
represented on the Court Statistics Committee. All the
surveys were completed and returned.
- A similar survey relating to information concerning
appellate courts was designed to collect new or changeable
descriptive information on courts of last resort and
intermediate appellate courts. Approximately 150 surveys
were mailed on January 14, 1999 and were completed and
- A third survey form was developed to update information
items carried over from the last edition and judged unlikely
to have changed significantly over the previous five years.
Respondents were presented with the question at issue, the
response given in the 1993 edition, and with a request to
update the information to the situation as of July 1, 1998.
Separate update surveys were prepared for administrative
offices of the courts and appellate court clerks.
- Protocols were developed to conduct statute and rule
searches that would compile tables of information on specific
laws, legal procedure and legal practices that applied
statewide. Searches were the primary source of data about
juries and sentencing.
Figure 1 indicates the primary data collection methods for
each table of information.
Upon return, surveys were reviewed for completeness and
clarity by project staff. Telephone calls and Fax messages
were used to ensure that accurate and comparable information
was available from all survey respondents. Once screened,
survey contents were entered into an SPSS database.
Information collected through update surveys and through
statute and rule searches were entered in table form as
Microsoft Word documents.
The main step in the verification process was to return all
tables completed through surveys, or update forms, back to
the original respondent in June of 1999. This provided a
second check on the information, often by a second person,
and also served as a check on the accuracy of any revisions
made by project staff to maximize comparability across states
and courts. All tables compiled through statute or rule
searches also were sent to the state court administrator and, as
appropriate, to the appellate court clerk with a request that
the contents be examined and modified or corrected as
necessary. Verification often involved a series of
iterations passed back and forth between project staff and
the administrative office of the courts or appellate court
clerk. Also, tables of information on various topics were
sent for review to relevant national experts.
It should be noted that even after such an extensive data
collection and data verification process, room for ambiguity
remains. This is inevitable in any best faith effort to
collect comparable information on multiple topics for which
no individual or office can claim to be a definitive
authority. Some leading authorities on specific topics were
consulted, notably Tom Munsterman on juries and Roger Hanson
and Teb Marvel on appellate courts, as an additional check on
the accuracy and comparability of information.
The result is a reference source that roams widely through
the world of trial and appellate courts and of state court
administration. There are some obvious limitations.
Provisions and procedures that relate to criminal cases
receive more attention than those concerning civil dockets.
The focus, moreover, is on statewide (or national for the
federal courts) court organization. Within states and within
the federal court system there is significant variation by
locality that is beyond the scope of this volume to describe.
Finally, State Court Organization is a companion series to
the series of annual State Court Caseload Statistics reports,
prepared by the Court Statistics Project of the National
Center for State Courts.
Part 1: Courts and judges
Coming to grips with the number and variety of courts is the
essential starting point for anyone interested in court
organization. The fundamental distinction is between trial
courts, which are courts of first instance that decide a
dispute by examining the facts, and appellate courts, which
review the trial court's application of law to those facts.
How many appellate courts have been established in the United
States? Table 1 provides the answer. There are two basic
kinds of appellate courts. Courts of last resort (COLR) have
final jurisdiction over appeals. Each state has a COLR.
Oklahoma and Texas split final appellate review between
separate civil and criminal COLRs. Intermediate appellate
courts (IAC) hear initial appeals, the outcome of which is
subject to further review by the state's COLR. Courts of
last resort typically were established in the state's
constitution and sit in one location, the state capital.
Intermediate appellate courts, a more contemporary
institution, have multiple locations in 21 states. In 10
states, each location serves a region within the state and
has its own chief judge and a permanently assigned complement
of judges. Other state appellate courts travel en banc to
various locations, while still other courts travel in smaller
panels. How many judges are authorized to serve and were
actually serving, as of July 1, 1998, on each court? The
number of appellate judgeships, authorized and serving, for
the state and federal courts is shown in Table 2. The
combined full-time federal and state appellate bench has
1,474 members. Most appellate judges serve on intermediate
appellate courts (1,108).
The allocation of judgeships to appellate courts illustrates
the divergence between the federal and state courts, as well
as state court diversity. All COLRs are established with an
odd number of justices, in contrast to the structure of the
jury as a decision-making institution, which usually entails
an even number of jurors. This follows the federal model.
However, state COLRs have fewer justices than the U.S.
Supreme Court. The most common arrangement is a seven judge
COLR, found in 27 states and Puerto Rico. Five justices
serve on COLRs in 18 state courts, including the Oklahoma
Court of Criminal Appeals. Seven courts, including both
Texas COLRs and the Oklahoma Supreme Court (Civil COLR),
follow the federal nine-justice model (as does the District
Intermediate appellate courts often undertake review through
panels of three or more judges rather than by the full court
sitting en banc. California has the largest state IAC, with
93 authorized judgeships. This court is divided into nine
divisions. There are 179 authorized judgeships for the 13
circuits of the U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal. Three judge
IACs are found in Alabama (Court of Civil Appeals), Alaska,
Hawaii, and Idaho.
Trial courts are listed state by state in Table 3,
distinguishing between courts of general jurisdiction (GJ)
and courts of limited (or special) jurisdiction (LJ).
General jurisdiction trial courts are always the highest
trial court in a state where felony criminal cases and high
stakes civil suits are adjudicated. They often exercise some
form of appellate review over outcomes in limited
jurisdiction courts or decisions by administrative agencies,
exercising what is termed incidental appellate jurisdiction .
A limited jurisdiction trial court, one or more of which is
to be found in all but five states and the District of
Columbia, typically holds preliminary hearings in felony
cases and typically has jurisdiction over misdemeanor and
ordinance violation cases (Table 45 details the jurisdiction
over felony cases by courts of limited jurisdiction). Civil
jurisdiction is restricted to a fixed maximum amount, and
typically includes a separate category of small claims cases
for which simplified procedures are established. Juvenile,
domestic relations, and drug cases are typically heard in a
court of general jurisdiction, however, there is a trend to
create special courts reserved for special dockets for these
case types. See Table 33 and 34 detailing the use of family
and drug courts.
Table 3 also indicates the number of judges authorized for
and serving on each trial court statewide. Some courts use
part-time or senior judges to help with caseloads, the
resulting judicial power is therefore expressed as full-time
equivalent positions. Courts typically also make use of
quasi-judicial staff to hear cases as referees,
commissioners, or hearing officers. Quasi-judicial officers
are usually appointed by the trial bench for a fixed period
of time and can be dismissed by that bench. General
jurisdiction trial courts are usually divided into circuits
or districts. In some states (e.g., California) the county
serves as the judicial district. Most states, however,
construct judicial districts that embrace a number of
counties. Limited jurisdiction trial courts vary in whether
they possess jurisdiction across a county or serve a specific
local government unit, such as a city or village.
Jurisdiction beyond a specific county is rare;
exceptions are for those courts with special jurisdiction
that applies statewide (water courts and workers'
compensation courts are examples).
The information contained in this section is basic because
there is no generic court system in the United States. Even
the nomenclature varies. Supreme Courts
are usually courts of last resort, but in New York the
designation "supreme" is assigned to the main trial court,
while The Court of Appeals is the state's court of last
resort. Justices and a Chief Justice usually serve on courts
of last resort, but a number of COLRs have judges and a chief
judge. Judge is the standard title for those serving on
intermediate appellate courts.
The closest to a generic form of court structure in the
United States is a court system with two appellate courts,
one a court of last resort and one an intermediate appellate
court, and two or more trial courts. But many states, and
the federal courts, do not neatly fit that pattern, and even
those states that do add diversity in how the allocation of
subject matter jurisdiction to courts is made, how appellate
review is designated as being on a mandatory (appeal of
right) or discretionary (through a petition) basis, and in
the use made of quasi-judicial officers.
Carl Baar, One Trial Court: Possibilities and Limitations,
Ottawa: Canadian Judicial Council, 1991.
Howard Ball, "The Federal Court System," Encyclopedia of the
American Judicial System, Vol. II, R. Janosik (Ed.). New
York: Charles Scribner's, 1987.
Marie T. Finn (Ed.) The American Bench: Judges of the Nation,
Ninth Edition 1997/98, Sacramento: Forster-Long, 1993
[includes maps of federal and state judicial boundaries].
Henry Glick, "State Court Systems," Encyclopedia of the
American Judicial System, Vol. II, R. Janosik (Ed.). New
York: Charles Scribner's, 1987.
Erick B. Low, "Accessing the Judicial System: The State's
Response," The Book of the States, 1994-95 Edition, Vol.
30. Lexington, KY: The Council of State Governments.
Part II: Judicial selection and service
How judges are selected and their terms of service on the
bench differ sharply between the federal and state
courts, and the differences among states are often
nearly as significant. All federal judges are nominated
by the President and serve "during good behavior" once
confirmed by the U.S. Senate unless they resign or are
impeached and convicted by the U.S. Congress. State
court judges are likely to face an election as a part of
their selection process and to serve fixed terms, which
for COLR justices range between six and 14 years (15
years in the District of Columbia).
Only Rhode Island offers appellate judges lifetime
appointments, while the judges of the New Hampshire and
Massachusetts Supreme Courts serve
until age 70.
Judicial selection occurs for three purposes in the state
courts: to fill an unexpired term upon the retirement,
resignation, or death of an incumbent
judge; to select for a full term (often referred to as
the initial selection); and at the end of a term. Table
4 describes the various ways in which
appellate justices and judges are selected, while Table 7
describes procedures for selecting trial court judges.
The resulting national picture can be
summarized by reference to the nature of the selection
process for general jurisdiction judges shown
below.***Footnote 1: American Bar Association,
Report and Recommendations of the Task Force on Lawyers'
Political Contributions: Part Two. Washington, DC: ABA,
Appointment: 648 (52.1%)
Partisan Election: 421 (33.9%)
Non-partisan Election: 174 (14.0%)
Appointment: 199 (16.4%)
Partisan Election: 326 (26.7%)
Non-partisan Election: 174 (14.3%)
Retention Elections Only: 518 (42.6%)
One marker for examining the diverse selection methods
adopted by the states is the "Missouri Plan." In 1940
the State of Missouri amended its constitution to
establish a statewide nominating committee for appellate
judgeships and circuit-level commissions for general
jurisdiction trial court judgeships. A judge, representatives
of the state bar association, and nonlawyers appointed by
the governor make up the commissions. The governor must
appoint one of a commission's three nominees to fill a
vacancy. The new appointee then faces a retention
election in one year's time, running against his
or her own record, and then further retention elections
at 12-year intervals. Thirty-nine states use some form
of judicial nominating commission in judicial
selection, which became popular in the 1970s although
only 16 combine such a commission with retention
elections on the Missouri model.
All appellate courts and most trial courts have a chief
judge. Table 4 explains how chief justices and chief
judges of COLRs and IACs are selected in each
state. The length of their term in office and whether
they can succeed themselves can be found in Table 5. How
trial court chief judges (sometimes styled
presiding judges) are selected is also detailed in Table 5.
The judges in a district or circuit typically select
one of their peers to serve as the chief judge for a
fixed number of years, but the appointment may be made at
the state level by the governor, Chief Justice of the
COLR, or the COLR collectively. In some
instances a specific individual is elected or appointed
as the chief judge and holds that title throughout his or
her tenure. In other trial courts, seniority
establishes who is the chief judge.
Qualifications for service as a judge are stated in the
constitutions and statutes of the various states. Tables
6 and 8 indicate the qualifications in terms of
residency, age, and legal credentials that are mandated
for appellate and trial court judgeships, respectively.
In addition to specifying the legal credentials,
if any, necessary to qualify for judicial selection, many
states require judges to participate in some form of
legal education beyond the Continuing Legal
Education expected of all members of the state bar.
Mandatory judicial education is accomplished through a
wide range of judicial branch and private
entities and is paid for by a variety of funding sources.
Eighteen states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico,
and the Navajo Nation make formal provisions for an
ongoing evaluation of judicial performance.
States with retention elections for judges are the most
likely to evaluate performance, but states with
nonpartisan elections do so as well (Michigan,
Minnesota, and Tennessee), as do many with a system of
judicial appointments (Connecticut, Delaware,
Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island,
South Carolina, and Vermont). Table 11 indicates for
these and other states with performance evaluation
structures the implementing authority, the body
responsible for operating the program, the evaluation
procedures, the evaluating committee duties, and
evaluation committee membership.
Formal judicial discipline is accomplished through
regional judicial councils in the federal system (under
The Judicial Councils Reform and Judicial Conduct
and Disability Act of 1980). The Councils investigate
complaints of any "conduct prejudicial to the effective
and expeditious administration of the business
of the courts." However, the Councils' disciplinary
powers stop short of removal from office. Removal is the
sole prerogative of the U.S. Congress. A Council can certify
a finding that impeachment is warranted to the U.S. House
Judicial conduct organizations are the main arbiters of
what constitutes judicial misconduct and disability in
the states. Conduct organizations investigate
complaints against members of the judiciary, and
typically include a mix of judges, lawyers, and ordinary
citizens. The adjudicatory function is usually
exercised by the COLR, although sometimes the original
conduct organization both investigates and adjudicates
complaints. In such instances there is a
right of appeal to the state's COLR. The name and
composition of the states' conduct organizations are
shown in Table 12. The table also indicates which
court or other entity adjudicates complaints, hears
appeals, has final disciplinary authority, and at what
point reprimands are made public.
American Bar Association, Report and Recommendations of
the Task Force on Lawyers' Political Contributions: Part
Two. Washington, DC: ABA, 1998.
Philip J. Dubois, From Ballot to Bench: Judicial
Elections and the Quest for Accountability. Austin, TX:
University of Texas Press, 1980.
Doris Marie Provine, Judging Credentials: Nonlawyer
Judges and the Politics of Professionalism, Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1986.
Judith Rosenbaum, Practices and Procedures of State
Judicial Conduct Organizations, Chicago: American
Judicature Society, 1990.
Lyle Warrick, Judicial Selection in the United States: A
Compendium of Provisions, Second Edition, Chicago:
American Judicature Society, 1993.
Mary Volcansek, Judicial Impeachment: None Called for
Justice, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993
[offers a general historical account, but focuses
on federal impeachment proceedings during the 1980s and
its relationship to judicial discipline in the federal
Susan Keilitz and Judith White McBride, "Revised Chart
for 'Judicial Performance Evaluation Comes of Age,' "
State Court Journal Vol. 16, No. 3, Summer,
1992. [Supporting text can be found in the State Court
Journal, Vol. 16, No. 1, Winter, 1992.
Part III: The judicial branch: governance, funding, and
Each state, like the federal government, has an independent
judicial branch. Generally, either the Court of Last Resort (13
states) or the Chief Justice of the Court of Last Resort (36
states) is the designated head of the judicial branch. In one
state, Utah, the Judicial Council is the designated head.
The formulation of rules for court procedure is basic to the
governance of the judicial branch. Table 14 indicates whether
the COLR has rule-making authority for some key procedural
areas, and also whether that authority stems from the state
constitution, statute law, or is an inherent power of the courts
as an independent branch of government. Where statute law is
the source of authority, the state legislature has delegated
rule-making authority to the COLR. The table also indicates
where rule-making is the preserve of the legislative branch.
The specific areas covered in Table 14 are appellate procedure,
civil procedure, criminal procedure, attorney discipline, court
costs, judicial discipline, appellate administrative rules, and
trial court administrative rules.
The federal judicial branch and many state judicial branches
incorporate councils or conferences in either a policy-making or
advisory capacity. Table 15 lists the relevant bodies by name
and cites their purpose, composition, frequency of meeting, and
tenure of membership. Notable characteristics include the
presence of non-judges as members and the source of the
authority for the council or conference's role. Most councils or
conferences were established by statute, but several are
explicitly established in the state constitution, and still
others by a COLR rule.
Twenty states have a compensation commission that examines and
reports on the salaries of judges. Fourteen of these
commissions have broader mandates, also examining and reporting
on non-judicial public officials. Six states have created
commissions specifically for judicial compensation review.
Table 16 identifies each commission's authorization, year
established, scope of authority, membership, meeting schedule,
reporting structure, and the effect of its recommendations.
Preparation of the judicial branch budget is explained in Table
17. In most states the Administrative Office of the Courts
prepares the judicial branch budget (33 states, D.C., and Puerto
Rico), generally followed by a review of budget submissions by
the state's COLR. The situation in many states is complex, and
this is reflected in the number of footnotes appended to the
table. Table 17 focuses on the role of the executive branch in
submitting and possibly amending the judicial branch budget. It
is rare for the judicial branch budget to be filed as a separate
appropriation bill (14 states). In most states it is either
included in a general appropriation bill or included in one of
several bills. Finally, the table provides an estimate of the
percentage of the total state budget accounted for by the
judicial branch in each state.
The coverage of state funding varies substantially among states,
especially in reference to trial court expenditures. Table 18
lists 17 expenditure areas for each trial court system in a
state and explains whether the source of funding is state,
county, other local government, or fees. Each court system is
identified as being either a court of general jurisdiction or a
court of limited jurisdiction. Some types of expenditures are
funded through several sources. Where state funding is
applicable, the table shows the percentage that is provided from
that source. The last column of the table indicates the total
amount of state funding provided for each trial court and the
percentage of total expenditure that is provided by the state.
In using this table it should be noted that it refers only to
the funding of trial courts, and is therefore not directly
comparable to the information in Table 17, which describes the
entire judicial branch budget. Table 18 does highlight some
important differences in the scope of state judicial branches,
specifically whether they encompass functions such as child
support enforcement, juvenile probation and detention, or
indigent defense. Such differences in scope, along with
differences in which expenditures are state funded and which are
locally funded or fee supported, explain to a substantial
extent, differences in the magnitude of the judicial branch
Every state has a central office that has day to day
administrative responsibilities for the state courts. The head
of that office, the state court administrator, is usually an
appointee of the state judiciary, with the chief justice or the
COLR exercising the appointment authority. The administrative
office's role in the budget process was described in Table 17.
A more comprehensive description of what administrative offices
do is provided in Tables 19 and 20, which indicate the nature of
the responsibility of the administrative office for 21
functional areas relating to a state's appellate courts and 22
functional areas relating to a state's trial courts. Where the
administrative office has total or partial responsibility for a
functional area, the number of full-time equivalent staff
assigned to that function is given. The last column of the
table reports the number of authorized and funded staff in the
administrative office, expressed as full-time equivalent
positions. The size of the administrative office staff reflects
both the degree to which there is centralized coordination of
key functions and the allocation of some substantial responsibilities,
such as juvenile probation, to the administrative office of the courts.
More courts are taking advantage of technology to automate their
information systems. Most states have a uniform case management
system at the appellate level. Table 21 indicates which courts
within each state have a uniform case management system and who
is responsible for that system. The table also identifies who
created the software, who maintains the software, and what type
of platform the application runs on.
American Bar Association (Judicial Administration Division),
Standards Relating to Court Organization: 1990 Edition,
Chicago: The ABA Press, 1990.
Larry Berkson and Susan Carbon, Court Unification: History,
Politics and Implementation, Washington D.C.: National
Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, 1978.
Thomas Henderson, et al., The Significance of Judicial
Structure: The Effect of Unification on Trial Court
Operations, Washington D.C.: National Institute of Justice,
Victor E. Flango and Brian J. Ostrom, Assessing the Need for
Judges and Court Support Staff, Williamsburg, VA: National
Center for State Courts, 1996.
Robert G. Nieland, Rachel N. Doan (revised by Mayo H. Stiegler),
State Court Administrative Offices: Second Edition, Chicago:
American Judicature Society, 1982.
Felix F. Stumpf, Inherent Powers of the Courts, Reno, NV:
National Judicial College, 1994.
Donald Pugh, Chris A. Korbakes, James J. Alfini, Charles W.
Grau, Judicial Rulemaking: A Compendium, Chicago: American
Judicature Society, 1984.
Lin Walker, "Survey on State Court Automation in 1998," NCSC
Working Report, 1998.
Part IV: Appellate courts: Jurisdiction, staffing, and
Appellate courts do not decide questions of guilt and innocence
in criminal cases or liability in civil cases; nor do they
ensure that each trial court proceeding was perfect. Appellate
courts instead review selected issues concerning the conduct and
results of a trial and decide if errors were committed.
However, in the course of focusing on specific issues, appellate
courts may create broad public policies.
Table 1 lists the names of all appellate courts established in a
state, gives the number of locations at which those appellate
courts hold sessions, and indicates whether each court has
separate administrative rules and a chief justice or chief
judge. Appellate court systems vary greatly in structure,
jurisdiction, and method of judicial selection. Tables in this
section describe 53 appellate systems, each with its own court
of last resort: the fifty states, the District of Columbia, the
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the federal system. The courts
of last resort in these systems range in size from five to nine
judges. A majority of state courts of last resort (COLRs) have
seven members, including those in the most populous states
(e.g., California, New York). The U. S. Supreme Court and a few
state supreme courts have nine Justices (e.g., Iowa,
Mississippi, Washington). Texas and Oklahoma depart from the
national pattern by establishing two courts of last resort: one
for civil cases and one for criminal cases.
A common state response to increasing appeals is to create an
intermediate court of appeals (IAC). In 11 states, the
intermediate appellate court is similar in size to the court of
last resort. In 29 states, the intermediate appellate courts
have more than nine members and as many as 93 (California)
authorized Judges who serve on panels within geographically
based districts. In Alabama, New York, Pennsylvania, and
Tennessee there is more than one IAC.
While it is accepted that all losing litigants have the
opportunity as a matter of right to a review in an appellate
court, it is also believed that one review is sufficient to
protect a litigant's interest in an error-free trial proceeding.
The division of responsibility between COLR and IAC rests on the
premise that all appellate work can be sorted into the two
categories of error correcting and lawmaking. In performing its
lawmaking responsibility, a court of last resort chooses the
cases it will consider and decide from among the petitions filed
with it. Cases that are further appealed to the court of last
resort are likely to be more complex, and to have broader policy
implications beyond the interests of the parties. Error
correcting is assigned to IACs, which receive appeals directly
from trial courts and typically have no discretion to decline to
decide a case. Table 23 indicates, for each appellate court
with discretionary jurisdiction, who makes the decision to grant
a petition -- the court en banc, a panel, a commissioner, or a single
justice. The number of justices needed to make a decision on
the size of the reviewing panel and its structure is also
described in that table.
In most states, appeals of trial court and administrative agency
decisions reach IACs as a matter of right (that is, the court
has broad mandatory jurisdiction over such appeals. Litigants
may appeal their case further to the court of last resort,
although courts of last resort in states with an IAC, have
discretionary jurisdiction to reject the litigant's petition
without further review. Each state's substantive law also has an
impact on the route appeals take. For example, appeals in
death-penalty cases are taken directly from the trial courts to
courts of last resort, except in those states (Alabama, Ohio,
Tennessee) where death penalty appeals go directly to the
intermediate appellate court. Table 22 describes the allocation
of mandatory and discretionary jurisdiction for eight types of
appeals. Table 29 indicates which courts review administrative
agency decisions in each state. Trial courts exercising what is
termed their incidental appellate jurisdiction sometimes
undertake agency review.
The manner in which appellate courts do their work continues to
evolve. Several tables in this section describe how appellate
courts have streamlined the appellate process. Table 26 on
expedited procedures consider five ways to speed the appeal
process: Preargument settlement conferences, advanced queues,
expedited briefs, substitution of oral argument for full written
briefs, and submission on briefs alone. Table 27 lists the
states that have adopted special calendars and the case types to
which they apply. Restriction on oral argument for routine
cases is another way appellate courts use their resources more
efficiently. Table 28 indicates whether oral argument is
restricted, whether it is restricted for civil or criminal
appeals, and who decides on the appeals to which the restriction
Finally, there are several tables that report on appellate court
staff. Table 24 provides details on the designated clerk of
court, the number of clerks, their selection method, their terms
of office and specified qualifications. (Only the supreme
courts of Indiana, Montana, and the 12 regional IACs in Ohio
hold popular elections when selecting clerks).
The respective responsibility of the clerk's office and the
administrative office of the courts for 21 functional areas is
stated in table 19. This table is new to State Court
Organization, 1998 and shows the extent of responsibility for
each function and the number of full time equivalent staff used
for each function.
Law clerks provide direct support to appellate justices and
judges, or to the court in general, through a central legal
staff. Recent studies have established the importance of appellate court
staff in accounting for variation in court processing time in
intermediate appellate courts.***Footnote 1: Roger A. Hanson, Time on
Appeal, Williamsburg, VA.: National Center for State Courts,
1996.*** The number of law clerks for each justice and
the number of central law staff are found on Table 25.
Appellate practice is a complex area, and the information
presented here is offered as a basic guide that provides the
framework to undertake more detailed examination of procedural
innovations in the appellate courts. The bibliography that
follows lists sources where detailed information on appellate
procedures can be found.
Joy Chapper and Roger Hanson, Intermediate Appellate Courts:
Improving Case Processing, Williamsburg, VA: National Center
for State Courts, 1990.
Carol R. Flango and David B. Rottman, Appellate Court
Procedures, Williamsburg, VA: National Center for State
Victor E. Flango and Carol R. Flango, A Taxonomy of Appellate
Court Organization, Williamsburg, VA: National Center for
State Courts, July 1997.
Roger A. Hanson, Appellate Court Performance Standards,
Williamsburg, VA: National Center for State Courts, 1995.
Roger A. Hanson, Time on Appeal, Williamsburg, VA: National
Center for State Courts, 1996.
Robert A. Leflar, Internal Operating Procedures of Appellate
Courts, Chicago, 1976.
Daniel J. Meador, Maurice Rosenberg, and Paul D. Carrington,
Appellate Courts: Structures, Functions, Processes, and
Personnel, Charlottesville, VA: The Michie Company, 1994.
Robert L. Stern, Appellate Practice in the United States: Second
Edition, Washington, D.C. The Bureau of National Affairs,
Part V: Trial court administration, procedures, and
One defining feature of state trial court systems is the
distribution of subject matter jurisdiction among courts. The
pattern followed in a state and the differences among states are
most readily considered through use of the court structure
charts found in Part VIII.
Trial court administration generally involves judges, clerks of
court, and trial court administrators with managerial
responsibility. Although clerks of court and trial court
administrators handle most administrative tasks, trial courts
typically designate one judge or a group of judges to make
administrative decisions. Typically he/she is called the
presiding, chief, administrative, or president judge. Table 30
outlines the various responsibilities that each court assigns to
The information on the selection and responsibilities of clerks of
court can be found in Table 31 and for trial court administrators
in Table 32. In some trial court systems, the same official is
both administrator and clerk.
A clerk of court typically has responsibility for docketing
cases, collecting court fees, overseeing jury selection, and
maintaining all court records. In whole or in part, these vital
administrative tasks are the responsibility of an elected,
autonomous official in most states. Partisan elections are used
to select clerks of general jurisdiction courts in 27 states and
non-partisan elections in a further four states. Clerks of
court are appointed in 19 states, Puerto Rico, and the District
of Columbia, usually by the chief judge or the bench. The
method of selection varies within the state of Washington and
between the several general jurisdiction courts in another four
states (Delaware, Michigan, Montana, and Tennessee). Table 31
also reports the number of clerks serving each court system in a
state, the length of their terms of office, and whether their
salary is paid from state or local funds.
Clerks of court are venerable offices in most state court
systems. Trial court administrators are more recent
participants in the management of court operations. Table 32
lists the number of authorized and serving trial court
administrators, differentiating between regional and local
officials. The administrator of the general jurisdiction court
sometimes also serves in that capacity for the courts of limited
jurisdiction in a particular district or region. The source of
court administrators' salaries is also identified.
The last decade has seen the rapid growth of specialized court
forums in the states. The first drug court was created in Dade
County, Florida in 1989; all but ten states followed that
example within the next decade. Table 33 provides the number of
drug courts in each state, when the state implemented its first
drug court, and the number of courts classified as family and
juvenile drug courts. The label drug court refers to a special
docket or calendar in a court to which a judge has been
Family courts have been in existence for far longer than drug
courts and sometimes have the formal status of a "court" (a
judicial body to which judges are specifically appointed and are
considered for subsequent terms), but the last decade has seen a
marked increase in the their use. The use of Family Courts is
outlined on Table 34. The table shows the number of counties,
districts, or circuits served by a family court in a state.
Also, the family court's subject-matter jurisdiction is defined
and the year the court was founded is noted.
Native American tribal courts bear a significant proportion of
adjudicatory responsibilities in many states. Cross-state
comparisons may not be accurate unless these courts are taken
into consideration. Also important is the relationship between
the state judicial system and the Native American judicial
system. Federal Public Law 280 gave states discretionary
authorization to assume jurisdiction over tribal lands. Table
36 identifies the number of federally recognized tribes and the
number of tribal justice forums. Then, the table provides the
number of CFR courts by state and the jurisdictional issues
relevant to the applicability of state law on reservations
(Public Law 280). Table 36 was compiled from the Federally
recognized tribes listed in the March 13, 2000 Federal Register
and the National American Indian Court Judges Association
(NAICJA) database of all known tribal systems operating in the
All but four states have provisions for live or taped media
coverage of court proceedings. The provisions for media in
trial and appellate courts are described on a state by state
basis in Table 37. Television cameras, still photographers,
still cameras, and audio systems may be allowed in some courts
and not others. The table indicates who must consent to the
media coverage before it will be allowed. Also, states give
certain parties the right to object. An objection may result
in the cessation of coverage of that particular party or a
total ban on coverage of the proceeding. There are also
different limits on coverage. The table shows the courts'
limits on the number of cameras and media personnel,
on some types of proceedings, and on certain persons involved in
the trial. Almost all courts require that the media personnel
allowed in the court must provide access to its video
transmissions and its pictures to others requesting such access.
The courts encourage "pooling" arrangements when multiple
parties wish to cover a proceeding.
Table 38 examines the policies each state uses for criminal
defendants claiming the insanity defense. First, the table
identifies state's burden of proof when determining the
defendant's capacity to stand trial. The next section of the
table identifies how the court decides insanity cases. Ten
states provide for a bifurcated trial where the elements of the
crime are decided in one proceeding and the determination of
insanity is decided in a separate proceeding. Each state's test
for insanity is then identified as a variation of one of the
major tests defined in the notes after the table. The table
then indicates the burden of proof and who has it, what
testimony is allowed, and whether the jury is informed of the
consequences of an insanity verdict. Then the table identifies
what the insanity verdict is called in each state and the
consequences of that verdict by identifying whether treatment is
mandatory or discretionary and identifying who has postconviction
American Bar Association, Unified Family Courts: A Progress
Charles A. Shanor and L. Lynn Hogue, Military Law, Second
Edition, St. Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing Company, 1996.
David A. Schlueter, Military Criminal Justice: Practice and
Procedure, Fourth Edition, Charlottesville, VA: Michie, 1996.
Edward F. Sherman, "Military Law," Encyclopedia of the American
Judicial System, Vol. I, R. Janosik (Ed.). New York: Charles
Federal Courts Study Committee, Report, Washington D.C: Judicial
Conference of the United States, 1990.
H. Barry Holt and Gary Forrester, Digest of American Indian Law,
Littleton, CO: Fred B. Rothman, 1990.
H. Clifton Grandy and Ted Rubin, Tribal Court--State Court
Forums, Williamsburg, Virginia: National Center for State
Jesse C. Trentadue, "Tribal Court Jurisdiction over Collection
Suits by Local Merchants and Lenders," American Indian Law
Review, 13, No. 1, 1988.
Mark J. A. Yannone, National Directory of Courts of Law,
Arlington, VA: Information Resources Press, 1991.
Myron Moskovitz, Criminal Law Defenses: 1998 Supplement, Volume
1 & 2, St. Paul, Minn.: West Publishing, 1998.
Paul H. Robinson, Criminal Law Defenses, Volume 1 and 2, St.
Paul, Minnesota: West Publishing, 1984.
Radio-Television News Directors Association, "Cameras in the
Courts," The News Media and The Law, Spring, 1993.
Steven W. Hays and Cole Blease Graham, Jr., Handbook of Court
Administration and Management, New York: Marcel Dekker, 1993.
"Symposium on Judicial Administration Research," The Justice
System Journal, Volume 12, Number 1, 1987.
William C. Canby, Jr., American Indian Law in a Nutshell: Second
Edition, St. Paul, MN: West Publishing, 1993.
William E. Hewitt, Geoff Gallas, and Barry Mahoney, Courts That
Succeed: Six Profiles of Successful Courts, Williamsburg, VA:
National Center for State Courts, 1990.
U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Court Activity Summary
Information, May 1988
Contents derived from Barbara A. Babb, Fashioning an
Interdisciplinary Framework for Court Reform in Family Law: A
Blueprint to Construct a Unified Family Court, Southern
California Law Review, Volume 71, Number 3, University of
Southern California: March 1998.
Barbara J. Hart, Esq., State Codes on Domestic Violence:
Analysis, Commentary and Recommendations, Reno, Nevada:
National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 1992
Richard A. Leiter, Editor, National Survey of State Laws: Second
Edition, New York: Gale, 1997.
Bureau of Indian Affairs, Native American Tribal Court Profiles,
Washington D.C., 1985.
Carole Goldberg-Ambrose, Planting Tail Feathers: Tribal Survival
and Public Law 280 (UCLA American Studies Center: 1997)(with
Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Indian
Entities Recognized as Eligible to Receive Services for the
United States Bureau of Indian Affairs,
http:www.doi.gov/bia/tribes/telist97.html, July 1998.
National American Indian Court Judges Association, Tribal Court
Database, May 28, 1998.
National Indian Court Justices Association, Indian Court Judges
Directory: Third Edition, Washington D.C., 1991.
Part VI: The jury
Our legal system is founded on the jury system.
Traditionally this has been a twelve-person jury that must
reach a unanimous verdict. That is no longer the standard in
the state courts. This section of State Court Organization
1998 uses four tables to describe the selection and verdict
rules of the petite juries in the state and federal courts.
A fifth table describes the composition and function of the
States use various methods to procure lists for which they
identify potential jurors. Table 39 identifies the
statutorily authorized sources that may be used by each state
to create its master list. These sources are generally not
mandatory; only sources followed by an asterisk must be used.
States often do not use all of the authorized sources to
generate their master lists. The local jury commissioner
usually determines the use made of the discretionary sources.
Qualifications for jury service in terms of age, time elapsed
since prior jury service, convicted felon status, residency,
and literacy are also specified in this table. Finally,
court policy toward jurors with disabilities is described.
Many states exempt or excuse some potential jurors from jury
duty. Table 40 explains the factors that exempt a person
from jury duty, as well as factors that represent a valid
basis for excusal from jury service. Exemptions are
generally based on age or occupation. Twenty-three states
and the District of Columbia do not grant automatic
occupational exemptions; several other states limit
exemptions to those on active military duty. Excusals from
jury service are allowed for claims of undue hardship,
extreme inconvenience, public necessity, or mental
disability. These claims typically have no specific
definition; the application of these claims is typically up
to the trial judge. Table 40 also details the obligations
that employers bear in each state toward maintaining the
salaries of employees while on jury service. Finally, the
daily fee, if any, paid to serving jurors is also indicated.
The formal process of jury selection in each relevant court
is described in Table 41. First, the table indicates who
conducts voir dire: the judge, the attorneys, or both the
judge and the attorneys. Typically, the provisions are the
same for all courts within a state holding a jury trial, but
there are a few states that conduct voir dire differently in
general and in limited jurisdiction courts. The remainder of
the table indicates the number of peremptory challenges
available to each party in different types of cases. The
number generally differs between civil and criminal cases,
and for criminal cases, between capital felony, other felony,
and misdemeanor cases. In civil cases each side gets the
same number of challenges while the number of peremptory
challenges for each side in a criminal case may differ. Most
states also have statutes regarding the distribution of
peremptory challenges for multiple party plaintiffs and
defendants. In some cases this varies the total number of
peremptory challenges allowed and in others the total number
stays the same, but are split among the parties.
Since 1970, U.S. Supreme Court decisions have allowed states
to move away from the traditional federal jury standard of 12
members who must reach a unanimous verdict. Specifically,
six-member juries were found to be constitutional in Williams
v. Florida, 399 U.S. 78 (1970) and non-unanimous verdicts in
Apodaca v. Oregon, 406 U.S. 404 (1972). The relaxation of
traditional size and verdict requirements is most prevalent
for misdemeanor criminal cases. Table 42 lists jury size and
verdict rules. Seven states use eight or six-member juries
for non-capital felonies, and two states (Louisiana and
Oregon) do not require a unanimous verdict in such cases.
Some states that continue to use a 12-member, unanimous
verdict jury typically allow the parties to stipulate to a
smaller, non-unanimous jury. Twenty-one states, the District
of Columbia, and the federal courts still require a unanimous
verdict in all civil cases while twenty-nine states require a
"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or other
infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment at a
grand jury." This clause from the Fifth Amendment to the
U.S. Constitution applies to all felony prosecutions in the
federal courts. The information in Table 43 shows that while
most states retain the option of a grand jury indictment, few
require it to begin felony proceedings. A trend toward a
diminished role for the state grand jury in processing felony
cases began early in the Twentieth Century. Grand jury
indictments were largely replaced by the practice of
prosecutors filing a document called a criminal information,
a practice ultimately upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court (In re
McNaught, 1909; Palko v. Connecticut, 1937). Table 43
indicates whether a grand jury indictment is required for all
felony prosecutions, the size of the grand jury, the number
needed to indict, the statutory term of grand jury sittings,
and the scope of the grand jury's purview.
Jeffrey Abramson, We, The Jury: The Jury System and the Ideal
of Democracy, New York: Basic books, 1994.
Gebert L. Litan (Ed.), Verdict: Assessing the Civil Jury
System, Washington D.C., 1993.
G. Thomas Munsterman, Paula L. Hannaford, and G. Marc
Whitehead (eds.) Jury Trial Innovations, Williamsburg, VA:
National Center for State Courts, 1997.
G. Thomas Munsterman and Paula L. Hannaford, "Reshaping the
Bedrock of Democracy: American Jury Reform During the Last
Thirty Years," Judicature, Vol. 36, Number 4.
"Symposium Issue on the Selection and Function of the Modern
Jury," The American University Law Review, Vol. 40, Number
2, Winter, 1991
Loren P. Beth, "The Fuller Court and Era," Encyclopedia of
the American Judicial System, Vol. I, R. Janosik
Part VII: The sentencing context
The seven tables in this section describe different facets of
the sentencing process. The tables provide definitions of
basic sentencing terms in each state; powers and procedures
of the courts in the sentencing process; the use of
intermediate sanctions and sentencing guidelines; the
consequences of a felon conviction, and provisions affecting
In Table 44, basic definitions are given for key terms used
in the sentencing process. First, felony and misdemeanor
offenses are described in terms of minimum and maximum
sentence lengths, and for felonies in terms of possible
fines. Next, the table defines the sentence enhancement
provisions and mandatory minimums resulting from the use of
deadly weapons in the course of a crime and from habitual
offender statutes. Finally, the table indicates what is the
most severe sentence other than the death penalty in a state.
For those states with capital punishment, this specific
sentence is often the default if the jury cannot agree on the
appropriate sentence. Many states have provisions for a
sentence to "life without the possibility of parole."
Courts of general jurisdiction have unlimited authority to
hear and dispose of felony cases. However, courts of limited
jurisdiction in most states conduct preliminary hearings and
bind over felony defendants for trial, and in the course of
doing so may have the jurisdiction to accept a guilty plea to
a misdemeanor and then impose sentence. In some states, this
extends to accepting a guilty plea to a felony charge and,
rarely, to imposing sentence. Table 45 describes how
jurisdiction over felony cases is distributed within each
state's court system. Also described are the authority of a
trial court judge to alter a sentence once it has been
implemented and the authority of an appellate justice or
court to alter a sentence.
Sentencing responsibilities in felony cases are presented in
Table 46. The table addresses capital felony cases and noncapital
felony cases separately because of the different
responsibilities in each type of case. For capital cases the
table identifies who sets the sentence, whether the jury must
be unanimous, whether there is an automatic default when the
jury fails to agree, and whether the judge can alter the
jury's sentence. In non-capital cases, the table also
identifies who sets the original sentence and whether the
judge may alter the jury's sentence, and whether there is a
separate sentencing hearing. The jury sets the sentence for
non-capital cases in only five states and gives a
recommendation in just two other states. Of those five
states, only Texas does not allow the trial judge to change
the juries sentence. This contrasts with capital felony
cases where the jury sets the original sentence in a majority
Sentencing options in the form of intermediate sanctions,
those less severe than imprisonment but more intrusive than
ordinary probation, are described in Table 47. Specific
reference is made to intensive probation, work release, house
arrest, electronic monitoring, and shock incarceration, the
most widely used intermediate sanctions. Other intermediate
sanctions are also noted. Short descriptions of the programs
identified in the table are given in notes after the table.
Table 48 offers a look at states which have sentencing
commissions or sentencing guidelines (states with neither
sentencing commissions nor sentencing guidelines have been
omitted from the table). Sentencing commissions are
described by noting when each was established, the nature of
its authorization, its membership composition, its
responsibilities, and whether its jurisdiction is to advise
or review sentences. The table also indicates what year the
state implemented sentencing guidelines and whether the
guidelines are voluntary or mandatory.
Conviction for a felony offense can bring certain "civil
disabilities" in the form of collateral consequences. These
typically extend beyond the point at which a person leaves
prison or is released from probation or parole supervision.
However, states differ in whether collateral consequences
apply to all convicted felons or only to those incarcerated.
Table 49 considers the impact that a felony conviction has on
voting rights, parental rights, eligibility for public
employment, jury service, and firearm ownership. Whether
there is a registration requirement for convicted felons is
also indicated. Information is also provided on the duration
of the disability.
Truth-in-sentencing laws, which specify a proportion of a
sentence length that an offender must serve, are reshaping
sentence-reducing mechanisms in state courts. Table 50
describes some important aspects of "back end discretion,"
which refers to the reduction of actual prison time served
through parole board discretion and by accumulation of "good
time." The availability of "good time" and the rate at which
it accrues are detailed, as is the existence of a parole
board with discretionary release authority.
Neal Kauder, Brian Ostrom, Meredith Peterson, and David
Rottman, Sentencing Commission Profiles: State
Sentencing Policy and Practice, Williamsburg, VA: National
Center for State Courts, 1997.
Brian Ostrom, Neal Kauder, David Rottman, and Meredith
Peterson, Sentencing Digest: Examining Current Sentencing
Issues and Policies, Williamsburg, VA: National Center for
State Courts, 1998
"A Symposium on Sentencing Reform in the States," University
of Colorado Law Review, 64, No. 3, 1993.
"'Black Box Decisions' on Life or Death--If They're
Arbitrary, Don't Blame the Jury: A Reply to Judge Patrick
Higginbotham," Case Western Reserve Law Review, Volume 41,
Number 4, 1991.
Barbara S. Vincent and Paul J. Hofer, The Consequences of
Mandatory Minimum Prison Terms: A Summary of Recent
Findings, Washington D.C.: Federal Judicial Center, 1994.
Derral Cheatwood, "The Life-Without-Parole Sanction: Its
Current Status and a Research Agenda", Crime and
Delinquency, Volume 34, Number 1, January 1988.
J. Mark Lane, "Is There Life Without Parole?: A Capital
Defendant's Right to a Meaningful Alternative Sentence,"
Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, Volume 26, January 1993.
James M. Byrne, Arthur J. Lurigio, Joan Petersilia, Smart
Sentencing: The Emergence of Intermediate Sanctions,
Newbury Park: Sage, 1992.
Julian H. Wright, ""Life-Without-Parole: An Alternative to
Death or Not Much of a Life at All?," Vanderbilt Law
Review, Volume 43, 1990.
Kathleen Maguire and Ann L. Pastore (Eds.) Sourcebook of
Criminal Justice Statistics, 1993, Washington D.C.: U.S.
Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, USGPO,
Kent H. Ronhovde and Gloria P. Sugars, "Survey of Select
State Firearm Control Laws," Federal Regulation of
Firearms, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office
(prepared for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee), 1982.
Micheal H. Tonry, Intermediate Sanctions in Sentencing
Guidelines. Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice,
Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice,
NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Death Row U.S.A. (a
Patrick A. Langan, "Between Prison and Probation:
Intermediate Sanctions," Science, Vol. 264, May 1994
Patrick E. Higginbotham, "Juries and the Death Penalty," Case
Western Reserve Law Review, Volume 41, Number 4, 1991.
Richard Koehler and Charles Lindner, "Alternative
Incarceration: An Inevitable Response to Institutional
Overcrowding," Federal Probation, September 1992.
Ruthanne De Wolfe, "Prison Law Developments: Alternatives to
Incarceration," Clearinghouse Review, January 1991.
Sandra Shane-DuBow, Alice Brown, and Erik Olsen, Sentencing
Reform in the United States: History, Content, and Effect.
Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1985.
"Symposium on Federal Sentencing," Southern California Law
Review, 99, 1992.
William McDonald, Repeat Offender Law in the United States:
Their Form, Use, and Perceived Value. Washington D.C.:
National Institute of Justice, 1986
"Richard G. Singer, "Conviction: Civil Disabilities,"
Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice, Vol. I, S. Kadish (Ed.).
New York: The Free Press, 1983.
Walter Matthews Grant, John LeCornu, John Andrew Pickens,
Dean Hill Rivkins, and C. Roger Vinson, "The Collateral
Consequences of a Felony Conviction," Vanderbilt Law
Review, Volume 23 Number 5, October 1970.
Velmer S. Burton, Jr., Francis T. Cullen, and Lawrence F.
Travis III, "The Collateral Consequences of a Felony
Conviction: A National Study of State Statutes," Federal
Probation, September 1987.
Part VIII: Court structure charts
The court structure charts summarize in a one-page diagram
the key features of each state's court organization. The
format meets two objectives: (1) it is comprehensive,
indicating all court systems in the state and their
interrelationships, and (2) it describes the jurisdiction of
the court systems, using a standard set of terminology and
symbols. The court structure charts employ the common
terminology developed by the National Center for State
Court's Court Statistics Project for reporting caseload
The first chart is a prototype. It represents a state court
organization in which there is one of each of the four court
system levels recognized by the Court Statistics Project:
courts of last resort, intermediate appellate courts, general
jurisdiction trial courts, and limited jurisdiction trial
courts. Routes of appeal from one court to another are
indicated by lines, with an arrow showing which court
receives the appeal or petition.
The charts also provide basic descriptive information, such
as the number of authorized justices, judges, and magistrates
(or other judicial officers). Each court system's subject
matter jurisdiction is indicated using the Court Statistics
Project case types. Information is also provided on the use
of districts, circuits, or divisions in organizing the courts
within the system and the number of courts.
The case types, which define a court system's subject matter
jurisdiction, require the most explanation.
The rectangle representing each appellate court contains
information on the number of authorized justices; the number
of geographic divisions, if any; whether court decisions are
made en banc, in panels, or both; and the Court Statistics
Project case types that are heard by the court. The case
types are shown separately for mandatory and discretionary
cases. The case types themselves are defined in other Court
Statistics Project publications, especially 1984 State
Appellate Court Jurisdiction Guide for Statistical Reporting
and State Court Model Statistical Dictionary: 1989 Edition.
An appellate court can have both mandatory and discretionary
jurisdiction over the same Court Statistics Project case
type. This arises, in part, because the Court Statistics
Project case types are defined broadly in order to be
applicable to every state's courts. There are, for example,
only two appellate Court Statistics Project case types for
criminal appeals: capital and noncapital. A court may have
mandatory jurisdiction over felony cases, but discretionary
jurisdiction over misdemeanors. The list of case types would
include "criminal" for both mandatory and discretionary
jurisdiction. The duplication of a case type under both
headings can also occur if appeals from one lower court for
that case type are mandatory, while appeals from another
lower court are discretionary. Also, statutory provisions or
court rules in some states automatically convert a mandatory
appeal into a discretionary petition--for example, when an
appeal is not filed within a specified time limit. A more
comprehensive description of each appellate court's subject
matter jurisdiction can be found in the 1984 State Appellate
Court Jurisdiction Guide for Statistical Reporting.
The rectangle representing each trial court also lists the
applicable Court Statistics Project case types. These
include civil, criminal, traffic/other violation, and
juvenile. Where a case type is simply listed, it means that
the court system shares jurisdiction over it with other
courts. The presence of exclusive jurisdiction is always
The absence of a case type from a list means that the court
does not have that subject matter jurisdiction. The dollar
amount jurisdiction is shown where there is an upper or a
lower limit to the cases that can be filed in a court. A
dollar limit is not listed if a court does not have a minimum
or maximum dollar amount jurisdiction for general civil
cases. In criminal cases, jurisdiction is distinguished
between "felony," where the court can try a felony case to
verdict and sentencing, and "preliminary hearings," which
applies to those limited jurisdiction courts that can conduct
preliminary hearings that bind a defendant over for trial in
a higher court.
Trial courts can have what is termed incidental appellate
jurisdiction. The presence of such jurisdiction over the
decisions of other courts is noted in the list of case types
as either "civil appeals," "criminal appeals," or
"administrative agency appeals." A trial court that hears
appeals directly from an administrative agency has an "A" in
the upper right corner of the rectangle.
For each trial court, the chart states the authorized number
of judges and whether the court can impanel a jury. The
rectangle representing the court also indicates the number of
districts, divisions, or circuits into which the court system
is divided. These subdivisions are stated using the court
system's own terminology. The descriptions, therefore, are
not standardized across states or court systems.
Some trial courts are totally funded from local sources and
some receive some form of state funds. Locally funded court
systems are drawn with broken lines. A solid line indicates
some or all of the funding is derived from state funds.
Symbols and Abbreviations
An "A" in the upper right corner of a rectangle, representing
either an appellate or a trial court, indicates that the
court receives appeals directly from the decisions of an
administrative agency. Where "administrative agency appeals"
is listed as a case type, it indicates that the court hears
appeals from decisions of another court on an administrative
agency's actions. It is possible for a court to have both an
"A" designation and to have "administrative agency appeals"
listed as a case type. Such a court hears appeals directly
from an administrative agency ("A") and has appellate
jurisdiction over the decisions of a lower court that has
already reviewed the decision of the administrative agency.
The number of justices or judges is sometimes stated as
"FTE." This represents "full-time equivalent" authorized
judicial positions. "DWI/DUI" stands for "driving while
intoxicated/driving under the influence." The "SC"
abbreviation stands for "small claims." The dollar amount
jurisdiction for civil cases is indicated in parentheses with
a dollar sign. Where the small claims dollar amount
jurisdiction is different, it is noted.
The court structure charts are convenient summaries. They do
not substitute for the detailed descriptive material
contained in the 50 tables of State Court Organization, 1998,
Moreover, they are based on the Court Statistics Project's
terminology and categories. This means that a state may have
established courts that are not included in these charts.
Some states have courts of special jurisdiction to receive
complaints on matters that are more typically directed to
administrative boards and agencies. Since these courts
adjudicate matters that do not fall within the Court Statistics Project
case types, they are not included in the charts. The
existence of such courts, however, is recognized in a
footnote to the state's court structure chart.