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Courts and Judges
Appellate courts are divided into two basic categories :-

• Courts of last resort - These courts are established in the State's constitution and have final jurisdiction over appeals.
• Intermediate appellate courts - These courts hear initial appeals from trial courts, the outcome of which can be subject to further review by the State's courts of last resort.

The State appellate bench consists of 1,335 members. Term lengths vary between States from four to sixteen years; only Rhode Island selects judges to serve for life, while Massachusetts and Puerto Rico mandate terms that last until retirement at age 70.

Judicial selection and service

State court judges are likely to face an election as a part of their selection process and to serve fixed terms, which for courts of last resort justices range between 6 and 14 years (15 years in the District of Columbia).

The judicial branch

Each State as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico has an independent judicial branch which is headed by either :-

• court of last resort (fifteen States)
• the Chief Justice of the court of last resort (34 States, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico).

In most States the judicial branch's budget is initially prepared by the State's administrative office of the courts, generally followed by a central review of budget submissions by the State's court of last resort or administrative office of the courts.

State appellate court systems

Courts of last resort were established early in a State's history, while intermediate appellate courts are a more contemporary development. In 1957, only 13 States had a permanent intermediate appellate court, while currently, 39 States have both types of appellate courts.

State trial courts

Trial court administration generally involves judges with managerial responsibility, clerks of court, and trial court administrators. A chief or presiding judge generally serves as an executive overseer who ensures that court policy is implemented.

Specialized courts

Problem solving courts have emerged in most States over the past several years and specialize in targeting issue areas such as domestic violence and drug addiction. By far, the most common problem solving courts are drug courts and family courts.

The jury

Exemptions from jury duty are generally based on age or occupation. Twenty-four States and the District of Columbia do not grant automatic occupational exemptions; several other States limit exemptions to those on active military service.

Four States use eight- (Arizona and Utah) or six-member juries (Connecticut and Florida) in their courts of general jurisdiction for non-capital felonies, and two States (Louisiana, Oregon and Puerto Rico) do not require a unanimous verdict in such cases.

Information Provided by the Bureau of Justice Statistics

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