Circuit court

Circuit court

Circuit court is the name of court systems in several common law jurisdictions.

Contents

History

King Henry II instituted the custom of having judges ride around the countryside ("ride circuit") each year to hear appeals, rather than forcing everyone to bring their appeals to London (see Assize of Clarendon). Thus, the term "circuit court" is derived from the practice of having judges ride around the countryside each year on pre-set paths to hear cases. Especially on the United States frontier, a judge might travel alone on horseback along with a group of lawyers. Abraham Lincoln was one such attorney who would ride the circuit in Illinois. In more settled areas, a stagecoach would be used. Eventually the legal caseload in a county would become great enough to warrant the establishment of a local judiciary. Most of these local judicial circuits have been thus replaced.

Republic of Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland a "circuit court" is part of the Courts of First Instance, which replaced the Assize Court used before the Irish Free State reformed the justice system[citation needed]. The circuit court system includes a judge and jury system, but is not allowed to hear, among others, murder, treason or rape cases. The civil jurisdiction of the court is limited to damages of €38,092.14 and actions involving land with a ratable value of less than €254.95 (Land value worth approx. €3 million)[citation needed].

United States

Federal courts of appeals

In the United States, circuit courts were first established in the British Thirteen Colonies. In 1789, the United States circuit courts were United States federal courts established in each federal judicial district. These circuit courts exercised both original (first instance) and appellate jurisdiction. They existed until 1912. The original jurisdiction formerly exercised by the United States circuit courts is now exercised by the United States district courts. Their appellate jurisdiction is now exercised by the United States courts of appeals, which were known as the United States circuit courts of appeals from its establishment in 1894 until 1947.

The federal courts of appeals sit permanently in 13 appellate circuits (11 regional circuits as well as a DC Circuit and the Federal Circuit). Note that there are several other federal courts that bear the phrase "Court of Appeals" in their names, but they are not Article III courts and are not considered to sit in appellate circuits.

The federal courts of appeals are intermediate courts, between the district courts (the federal trial courts) and the Supreme Court. Smaller circuits, such as the Second Circuit and Third Circuit, are based at a single federal courthouse, while others, such as the large Ninth Circuit, are spread across many courthouses. Since three-judge federal appellate panels are randomly selected from all sitting circuit judges, Ninth Circuit judges must often "ride the circuit," though this duty has become much easier to carry out since the development of modern air travel.

Supreme Court of the United States

Under the original Judiciary Act of 1789 and subsequent acts, the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, D.C. had the responsibility of "riding circuit" and personally hearing intermediate appeals, in addition to their caseload back in the capital. This onerous duty was abolished by Congress with the Judiciary Act of 1891. The U.S. Supreme Court justices still retain vestiges of the days of riding circuit; each justice is designated to hear certain interlocutory appeals from specific circuits and can unilaterally decide them or refer them to the entire Court. The Court's customary summer recess originated as the time during which the justices would leave Washington and ride circuit (since dirt roads were more passable in the summer).

State courts

Many U.S. states have state courts called "circuit courts." Most are trial courts of general, original jurisdiction.

In Louisiana, the intermediate appellate courts are called the Louisiana Circuit Courts of Appeal. There are five separate judicial circuits.

In many states, such as Missouri, a judicial circuit can encompass one or more counties (see Missouri Circuit Courts). Each circuit court can have several divisions, including circuit, associate, small claims, probate, family or drug court. Each division hears cases within its particular area of subject-matter jurisdiction, and jurisdiction is based on the size or type of a civil claim, or the severity or type of a criminal charge. Drug court, for example, hears only drug-related criminal cases.

Several U.S. states have state supreme courts that traditionally "ride the circuit" in the sense of hearing oral arguments at multiple locations throughout their jurisdictions each year. Among the states with circuit-riding supreme courts are California, Idaho, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

England and Wales

England and Wales is divided into six regions or circuits for the purposes of the administration of justice.[1]

  • Northern Circuit
  • North Eastern Circuit
  • Wales and Chester Circuit (also known as Wales and Cheshire)
  • Midland Circuit
  • Western Circuit
  • South Eastern Circuit

The system is overseen by the Lord Chancellor. The membership consists of High Court Judges, Circuit Judges, District Judges, law practitioners and academic lawyers. The Circuits also form the basis for administration of the Bar in England and Wales. The Circuit Bars are represented on the Bar Council through the Circuit Leaders.[1]

References

  1. ^ a b Circuits by the Bar Council of England and Wales

See also


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