Category Archives: Court Systems

Chancery Court

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Unless you live in Delaware, Mississippi, or Tennesse, you may not be familiar with the term Chancery Court. But Chancery Courts were part of the English judicial system for hundreds of years, were brought to the American colonies, and were part of most U.S. states’ early judicial systems.

The name itself originated outside of the judicial system; in Europe, starting with the Roman Empire, the Chancellor was in charge of government records. When today’s English legal system first began to develop after the Norman Conquest, the Chancery was the public records office, under the direction of the Lord Chancellor. Because … Read More

WATER COURTS-RESOLVING STATE RESOURCE DISPUTES WITH EXCLUSIVE JURISDICTION

In recent news reports we have learned about the contamination of public water sources in West Virginia, and have been alerted to the potential impact of climate change on local water supplies.   Who ultimately decides disputes involving the protection, access and consumption of state water resources?

Generally, state courts have jurisdiction over local water rights created by state law.  State agencies with environmental and natural resources oversight further regulate water use and consumption policy in compliance with state law.   Conflicts involving water on reserved Federal and Indian land are resolved by negotiation and compact with state, federal and tribal authorities.… Read More

Housing Court

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Here at CourtReference, we spend a lot of time looking at court systems, so we get to see types of courts in some states that you may not have in your state – yet. Courts that specialize in a particular area of the law have been around for a long time. Examples are Family Court, Juvenile Court, Tax Court, and Probate Court.

But in the past few decades, courts that specialize in a single type of case have evolved. These highly specialized courts may be a separate court, or a division or program of court of more general jurisdiction. … Read More

Who is a Friend of the Court?

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Actually, the correct question is “What is a Friend of the Court?” The Friend of the Court we’re describing here is not a person. There is a different type of “friend of the court” who can be a person – or a group or organization – who files a brief in an appellate court case. If they are not a party to the case, they are an amicus curiae (Latin for “friend of the court”). They may be providing additional information to help the court take a broader view of the issue on appeal, or they may be providing additional … Read More

Court System Changes: Consolidation

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State trial court systems don’t change their structures often. Most are established by state constitutions, although some are established by acts of the state legislature. Some states have a mix of both; a prime example is Texas, which has both “Constitutional” County Courts (one in each county) and “Statutory” County Courts (commonly called Courts at Law; from none to many in each county, depending mainly on the county’s population). Given the difficulty of changing a state constitution, and the contentiousness present in most state legislative actions, it’s easy to see why court systems are generally left alone.

Texas actually … Read More

Misconceptions About Court Records Availability

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While keeping up with developments in court systems, court records, and related online resources, we at CourtReference frequently encounter discussions about the difficulty – or ease – of finding court records online. We’ve discussed the many types of court records available online, right here on this blog; see our posts about More Court Records (Jan 2012),  What to Know Before Searching (Dec 2010), Jurisdiction and Court Records (Oct 2008), Court Records Basics (Aug 2008),  and Where to Find Criminal Records (Feb 2008).

Yet many people still have trouble finding court records. “There’s no such thing as free court records online” … Read More

Gun Court

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Guns are in the news lately. The USA is a big country with a lot of guns, some of which are used to kill large numbers of people, generating news reports. Some are used in confrontations that become high-profile trials, generating more news reports.

From Newtown CT to Sanford FL, the headlines have driven debate about guns and gun violence. The debate in turn drives more headlines about guns – so guns are in the news. But in the USA, guns are always in the news. Although the Sandy Hook school shooting and the George Zimmerman trial make headlines, guns … Read More

Court Appearances by Television

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This blog has been following the expansion of the use of technology in the justice system. See our posts about electronic filing (2010), court appearances by telephone (2011), and fighting tickets online (2012).

Video technology is also being embraced by the courts. One well-established use of video is the recording of depositions. A deposition is the sworn oral testimony of a party or witness that takes place prior to trial. Depositions are a form of evidence, and they are normally taken in court reporters’ or lawyers’ offices. Video is simply used to record the testimony, and replaces … Read More

Judicial Recusal-when should a judge step aside?

Perhaps it’s a term you’ve heard on Law & Order. Or you may remember the calls for withdrawal of Supreme Court Justices Elena Kagan and Clarence Thomas from hearing The Affordable Health Care Act case due to alleged conflicts of interest. Both Justices remained on the case, although critics were quite vocal about their participation-Kagan, for her role as Solicitor General in the Obama administration when the Act was signed into law, and Thomas, for failing to disclose his wife’s income from organizations opposed to the Act. Demands for their recusals may have split along partisan lines, but … Read More

Juvenile Court

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Crime is in the news lately. But as they say in the news business, “If it bleeds, it leads.” – so whether crime rates are up or down, crime is always in the news. Among the crime reports are those in which the accused is a minor, so the reports note whether the accused will be tried as an adult or a minor. But what does that question really mean?

If the minor is tried as an adult, the trial will be in a regular criminal court, and neither the process nor the result will take the accused’s age into … Read More