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.
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.
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.