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"The United States of America is a nation of laws: badly written & randomly enforced." Frank Zappa

US Court System

The court system in the United States consists of 51 jurisdictions (fifty states, plus the federal system). Each of the fifty states has courts at three levels:

Trial Courts
Intermediate Appellate Court
Court of Last Resort

While every state has courts at these 3 levels: trial, appellate and court of last resort, the actual names of the courts may be different in different states.

In Colorado:

  • the Trial court is the county district court
  • the Appellate court is the Colorado Court of Appeals
  • the Court of last resort is the Colorado Supreme Court.

The trial court is the first level in the court system. In actual operation, the trial court may have numerous subdivisions and special branches (e.g., probate, family court, small claims court, etc.) but every jurisdiction has a trail court of general jurisdiction at which most disputes are initially adjudicated. A trial judge's ruling on an issue of law can be appealed to the court at the intermediate level. In some cases, after the determination of an appeal in the intermediate appeal court, a second appeal may be taken, this time to the court of last resort.

The federal system has courts which are parallel to those in the fifty states.

At the Federal Level:

  • Trial courts are U.S. District Courts -- Colorado has one United States District Court, located in Denver. This court hears cases which are appealed from the Supreme Court of Colorado.  
  • the Appellate courts are U.S. Courts of Appeals
  • the Court of last resort is the U.S. Supreme Court.

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