Administration of Public Welfare

By R. Clyde White | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
THE ROLE OF THE COURTS

The judicial branch in American government is charged with the responsibility of administering justice as defined by constitutional, statutory, and common law.1 A court is a specific agency to which causes within its jurisdiction are brought for adjudication. Since we have a dual system of courts, the appropriate court may be federal, or it may be state. Courts may be classified as to jurisdiction in three ways: (1) courts of general jurisdiction or of limited jurisdiction; (2) courts of original jurisdiction or appellate jurisdiction; and (3) courts with exclusive jurisdiction or with concurrent jurisdiction.2 The federal system of courts comprises the district courts, the circuit courts of appeal, and the supreme court. In the states there is a greater variety of courts; these include police courts, courts of justices of the peace, municipal courts, county courts, district or circuit courts, courts of appeals, and supreme court. The names of these courts vary in different states, but the function and jurisdiction of state courts are suggested by these common names. The local courts belong to the state system; and this statement is not altered by the fact that local courts are financed out of local revenues, that the judges are elected by local ballots, or that the jurisdiction of a local court is limited to a specific geographical area.

Cases originate in some locality and must be brought before a lower federal or state court which has original jurisdiction. Only a small number of cases are appealed to the higher courts. Social workers have most frequent contacts with courts having jurisdiction in juvenile cases, domestic relations cases, small claims cases, and cases involving commitment to an eleemosynary or correctional institution. In counties with small populations a single county court

____________________
1
Constitution of the United States, Art. III; Art. IV, secs. 1, 2; Amendments I-X, XIII, XIV, XV, XIX.
2
Hugh E. Willis, Introduction to Anglo-American Law, 1931, p. 49.

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