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Business: Legal Research

Business Law and Legal Research

Hierarchy of the Court System:

A chart that demonstrates the structure of the dual court system. At the top of the chart is a box labeled “U.S. Supreme Court”. There are boxes below it on either side, arranged in the shape of a triangle. On the left hand side of the triangle are two boxes. From bottom to top, the boxes are labeled “U.S. District Courts” and “U.S. Federal Courts.” An arrow points from the top of the box labeled “U.S. District Courts” to the box labeled “U.S. Federal Courts”. An arrow points from the top of the box labeled “U.S. Federal Courts” to the box labeled “U.S. Supreme Court”. On the right hand side of the triangle are three boxes. From bottom to top, the boxes are labeled “State Trial Courts”, “Intermediate Appellate Courts”, and “State Supreme Courts”. An arrow points from the top of the box labeled “State Trial Courts” to the bottom of the box labeled “Intermediate Appellate Courts”. An arrow points from the top of the box labeled “Intermediate Appellate Courts” to the bottom of the box labeled “State Supreme Courts”. An arrow points from the top of the box labeled “State Supreme Courts” to the bottom of the box labeled “U.S. Supreme Court”.    

(image: https://louis.oercommons.org/courseware/module/271/student/?task=2#OSC_AmGov_13_02_Structure )

  • 1 Supreme Court, takes cases from US Courts of Appeals and state supreme courts.
  • 13 Courts of Appeals, (also called Circuit Courts) which take cases from District Courts.
    • (Indiana is in the 7th Circuit, along with Illinois and Wisconsin.)
  • 94 US District Courts (Trial Courts)
  • States have a similar Trial Court, Appellate Court, and Supreme Court structure. 

Terms to know: (All Definitions from Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute.)

  • Precedent: Precedent refers to a court decision that is considered as authority for deciding subsequent cases involving identical or similar facts, or similar legal issues.
  • Petitioner and Respondent: The Petitioner is the person or group asking for a court review. In an appeal, the petitioner is the loser from the lower court. The Petitioner could be the Plaintiff or Defendant from the lower court case. The petitioner is listed first in a case citation, for example Oliver Brown was the petitioner in Brown v. Board of Ed of Topeka.