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Lesson Four:Judicial System 第四课:司法系统

(2010-09-25 13:24:57)






分类: 何家弘《法律英语》

Part One:Courts



   There are fifty-two separate court systems in the United States. Each state, as well as the District of Columbia, has its own fully developed, independent system of courts and there is a separate federal court system. The federal courts are not superior to the state courts; they are an independent, coordinate system authorized by the United States Constitution, Art. Ⅲ,§2, to handle matters of particular federal interest. The presence of two parallel court systems often raises questions concerning the relationship of the state and federal systems, presenting important issues of federalism. The United States Supreme Court, composed of nine justices, sits as the final and controlling voice over all these systems.



    Although a few states, such as Nebraska, have a two-tiered system, most states, as well as the federal courts, are based on a three-tiered model. That means that for any litigant there will be the opportunity to plead his case before a trial court and then, should he lose, there are two levels of appeal at which he ultimately may succeed. For example, in the federal system the trial court is the United States District Court, of which there is at least one in every state. Many larger states are divided into two, three or even four judicial districts, depending on population, geography and caseload. There are ninety-four districts in the United States and each district court has one judge, or more commonly two or more. After an adverse judgment in the district court, a litigant may appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the circuit in which the district court is located. There are eleven numbered intermediate appellate courts in the federal system, each including anywhere from three to ten states and territories. Additionally, there is a Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, hearing appeals from the federal district court there, and one for the Federal Circuit, taking appeals from various specialized federal tribunals, such as the Claims Court. Each court of appeals has four or more judges who sit in panels of three to review district court decisions, as well as some decisions of administrative agencies. A losing litigant in the court of appeals may, in some cases, be able to obtain review by the United States Supreme Court. Cases in the state courts similarly may proceed through a trial court, a state appellate court, and then the state supreme court. If a federal constitutional question is involved the decision of the state supreme court may be reviewed by the United States Supreme Court. Since 1988, review by the Supreme Court in civil cases is discretionary; virtually all civil appeals as of right to the highest court have been abolished.



    Three-tiered systems vary on the role which the highest court plays. The approaches taken reflect differing philosophies with regard to what the highest court should do. For example, in California only criminal cases in which capital punishment has been imposed are appealable as of right to the state supreme court. Similarly, in the federal courts, except in a few very limited circumstances, appeals to the United States Supreme Court are discretionary, by writ of certiorari. The Court decides for itself what are the most important questions that deserve its attention and will refuse to review decisions raising issues that it feels are not as crucial. In this way it supervises the administration of law by the lower courts on an ad hoc basis. At the other end of the spectrum, such as in New York, appeals to the state’s highest court are as of right in a great many cases provided for by statute. The primary function of the highest court in New York appears to be to assure that cases are correctly decided. It is necessary to check carefully the statutes of the system in which you are appearing to determine the specific rules regarding review by those appellate courts.



Part Two:Judges



   Fewer than one in twenty of those admitted to practice law is a federal, state, county, or municipal court judge. Except for some inferior courts, judges are generally required to be admitted to practice but do not practice while on the bench. There is so little uniformity that it is difficult to generalize further than to point out three salient characteristics that relate to the ranks from which judges are drawn, to the method of their selection, and to their tenure.



    Judges are drawn from the practicing bar and less frequently from government service or the teaching profession. There is in the United States no career judiciary like that found in many other countries and there is no prescribed route for the young law graduate who aspires to be a judge, no apprenticeship that must be served, no service that must be entered. The outstanding young law graduates who act for a year or two as law clerks to the most distinguished judges of the federal and state courts have only the reward of the experience to take with them into practice and not the promise of a judicial career. While it is not uncommon for a vacancy on a higher court to be filled by a judge from a lower court, even this cannot be said to be the rule. The legal profession is not entirely unaware of the advantages of a career judiciary, but it is generally thought that they are outweighed by the experience and independence which American lawyers bring to the bench. Many of the outstanding judges of the country’s highest courts have had no prior judicial experience. Criticism has centered instead on the prevalent method of selection of judges.



    State court judges are usually elected, commonly by popular vote, but occasionally by the legislature. Popular election has been the subject of much disapproval, including that of the American Bar Association, on the ground that the public lacks interest in and information on candidates for judicial office and that therefore the outcome is too often controlled by leaders of political parties. The situation has been somewhat improved since many local bar associations have undertaken to evaluate the qualifications of candidates and to support or oppose them on this basis.



   Since 1937, the American Bar Association has advocated the substitution of a system under which the governor appoints judges from a list submitted by a special nominating board and the judge then periodically stands unopposed for reelection by popular vote on the basis of his or her record. Such a system is now in effect, for at least some judges, in a substantial minority of states. In a small group of states, judges are appointed by the governor subject to legislative confirmation.



    This is also the method of selection of federal judges, who are appointed by the President subject to confirmation by the Senate. Even under the appointive system the selection of judges is not immune from political influence and appointees are usually of the President’s or governor’s own party. But names of candidates for the federal judiciary are submitted to a committee of the American Bar Association and appointment is usually made only with its approval. The office of chief judge or chief justice is usually filled in the same manner as other judicial offices, although in some states it is filled from among the members of the court by rotation, by seniority of service, or by vote of the judges. The Chief Justice of the United States is appointed by the President, subject to Senate confirmation.



    The third characteristic is that judges commonly serve for a term of years rather than for life. For courts of general jurisdiction it is typically four, six, or eight years, and for appellate courts, six, eight, or ten years. Happily, even where selection is by popular election, it is customary to return to office for sitting judges whose service has been satisfactory. In a few state courts and in the federal courts the judges sit for life. Whether on the bench for a term of years or for life, a judge may be removed from office only for gross misconduct and only by formal proceedings. Instances of removal have been rare indeed and only a handful of federal judges have been removed by formal proceedings. The independence of the judiciary is also encouraged by the rule that a judge incurs no civil liability for judicial acts, even if guilty of fraud and corruption. The American Bar Association’s Code of Judicial Conduct has been widely adopted as a standard to which judges are expected to adhere. Salaries for the higher judicial offices are usually good although less than the income of a successful private practitioner, the prestige of these offices is high, and the bench has been able to attract many of the country’s ablest legal minds. The great names in American law are in large part the names of its great judges.(over)





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