A court is a tribunal, often as a government institution, with the
authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out
the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative
matters in accordance with the rule of law. In both common law and
civil law legal systems, courts are the central means for dispute
resolution, and it is generally understood that all persons have an
ability to bring their claims before a court. Similarly, the rights of
those accused of a crime include the right to present a defense before
The system of courts that interprets and applies the law is
collectively known as the judiciary. The place where a court sits is
known as a venue. The room where court proceedings occur is known as a
courtroom, and the building as a courthouse; court facilities range
from simple and very small facilities in rural communities to large
buildings in cities.
The practical authority given to the court is known as its
jurisdiction (Latin: jus dicere') – the court's power to decide
certain kinds of questions or petitions put to it. According to
William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, a court is
constituted by a minimum of three parties: the actor or plaintiff, who
complains of an injury done; the reus or defendant, who is called upon
to make satisfaction for it, and the judex or judicial power, which is
to examine the truth of the fact, to determine the law arising upon
that fact, and, if any injury appears to have been done, to ascertain
and by its officers to apply a legal remedy. It is also usual in the
superior courts to have barristers, and attorneys or counsel, as
assistants, though, often, courts consist of additional barristers,
bailiffs, reporters, and perhaps a jury.
The term "the court" is also used to refer to the presiding officer or
officials, usually one or more judges. The judge or panel of judges
may also be collectively referred to as "the bench" (in contrast to
attorneys and barristers, collectively referred to as "the bar"). In
the United States, and other common law jurisdictions, the term
"court" (in the case of U.S. federal courts) by law is used to
describe the judge himself or herself.
In the United States, the legal authority of a court to take action is
based on personal jurisdiction, subject-matter jurisdiction, and venue
over the parties to the litigation.
Trial and appellate courts
4 Civil law courts and common law courts
Court television shows
6 International Courts
7 Types and organization of courts
9 External links
The word court comes from the French cour, an enclosed yard, which
derives from the Latin form cortem, the accusative case of cohors,
which again means an enclosed yard or the occupants of such a yard.
The English word court is a cognate of the Latin word hortus (meaning
"garden", hence horticulture and orchard), both referring to an
The meaning of a judicial assembly is first attested in the 12th
century, and derives from the earlier usage to designate a sovereign
and his entourage, which met to adjudicate disputes in such an
enclosed yard. The verb "to court", meaning to win favor, derives from
the same source since people traveled to the sovereign's court to win
Main article: Jurisdiction
The word jurisdiction comes from juris and dictio (a speaking and
pronouncing of the law).
Jurisdiction is defined as the official
authority to make legal decisions and judgements over an individual or
materialistic item within a territory.
"Whether a given court has jurisdiction to preside over a given case"
is a key question in any legal action. Three basic components of
jurisdiction are personal jurisdiction over an individual,
jurisdiction over the particular subject matter (subject-matter
jurisdiction) or thing (res) and territorial jurisdiction.
Jurisdiction over a person refers to the full authority over a person
regardless on where they live, jurisdiction over a particular subject
matter refers to the authority over the said subject of legal cases
involved in a case, and lastly, territorial jurisdiction is the
authority over a person within an x amount of space.
Other concepts of jurisdiction include general jurisdiction, exclusive
jurisdiction, territorial jurisdiction, appellate jurisdiction, and
United States federal courts) diversity jurisdiction.
Trial and appellate courts
Trial courts are courts that hold trials. Sometimes termed "courts of
first instance", trial courts have varying original jurisdiction.
Trial courts may conduct trials with juries as the finders of fact
(these are known as jury trials) or trials in which judges act as both
finders of fact and finders of law (in some jurisdictions these are
known as bench trials). Juries are less common in court systems
outside the Anglo-American common law tradition.
Appellate courts are courts that hear appeals of lower courts and
Some courts, such as the
Crown Court in England and Wales may have
both trial and appellate jurisdictions.
Civil law courts and common law courts
The two major legal traditions of the western world are the civil law
courts and the common law courts. These two great legal traditions are
similar, in that they are products of western culture although there
are significant differences between the two traditions. Civil law
courts are profoundly based upon Roman Law, specifically a civil body
of law entitled "Corpus iuris civilis". This theory of civil law
was rediscovered around the end of the eleventh century and became a
foundation for university legal education starting in Bologna, Spain
and subsequently being taught throughout continental European
Universities. Civil law is firmly ensconced in the French and
German legal systems.
Common law courts were established by English
royal judges of the King's Council after the Norman Invasion of
Britain in 1066. The royal judges created a body of law by
combining local customs they were made aware of through traveling and
visiting local jurisdictions. This common standard of law became
known as "Common Law". This legal tradition is practiced in the
English and American legal systems. In most civil law jurisdictions,
courts function under an inquisitorial system. In the common law
system, most courts follow the adversarial system. Procedural law
governs the rules by which courts operate: civil procedure for private
disputes (for example); and criminal procedure for violation of the
criminal law. In recent years international courts are being created
to resolve matters not covered by the jurisdiction of national courts.
For example, The International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, in
The Kingdom of The Netherlands.
Court television shows
Television show courts, which are not part of the judicial system and
are generally private arbitrators, are depicted within the court show
genre; however, the courts depicted have been criticized as
misrepresenting real-life courts of law and the true nature of the
legal system. Notable court shows include:
The People's Court
Judge Joe Brown
Eye for an Eye
International judicial institution
International Criminal Court
Court of Arbitration
Types and organization of courts
Court of Faculties
Court of record
Courts of England and Wales
Court of Justiciary
Tribunal (French Revolution)
^ Walker, David (1980). The Oxford companion to law. Oxford: Oxford
University Press. p. 301. ISBN 0-19-866110-X.
^ "Avalon Project - Blackstone's
Commentaries on the Laws of England
Commentaries on the Laws of England -
Book the Third - Chapter the Third : Of Courts in General".
Avalon.law.yale.edu. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
^ See generally 28 U.S.C. § 1: "The Supreme
Court of the
United States shall consist of a Chief
Justice of the United States
and eight associate justices [ . . . ]" (italics added); 28
U.S.C. § 43(b): "Each court of appeals shall consist of the
circuit judges of the circuit in regular active service." (italics
added); 28 U.S.C. § 132(b) (in part): "Each district court
shall consist of the district judge or judges for the district in
regular active service." (italics added); 28 U.S.C. § 151
(in part): "In each judicial district, the bankruptcy judges in
regular active service shall constitute a unit of the district court
to be known as the bankruptcy court for that district [ . . . ]"
^ a b Harper, Douglas. "court (n.)". Online Etymology Dictionary.
Retrieved 21 May 2015.
^ "COUR : Etymologie de COUR". Cnrtl.fr. Retrieved 23 December
^ The Federalist No. 81, footnote 3.
^ Inc., US Legal,. "
Jurisdiction – Civil Procedure".
Civilprocedure.uslegal.com. Retrieved 23 December 2017.
^ a b c Jurisdiction, Legal Information Institute, Cornell
^ a b von Mehren, Arthur T.; Murray, Peter L. (8 Jan 2007).
Law in the
United States. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781139462198.
Retrieved 21 May 2015.
^ a b Burnham,, William (2006). Introduction to the
Law and Legal
System of the
United States (4th ed.). St. Paul (Minn.): Thomson-West.
^ Judicial Process: Law, Courts, and Politics in the
United States -
David W. Neubauer, Stephen S. Meinhold. Google Books. Retrieved
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