How Many Different Types Of Criminal Court Systems Are There

Courts as a legal system are involved in the conviction of multiple yet variedly separate cases. Its functions are serving the public and society. The court system’s principal goal is achieving justice which means that the courts have to be open, impartial, and most importantly, independent.

Judicial independence is only achieved by permitting judges to make decisions they believe are right, fair, and just even if it means they’re unpopular.

Open proceedings are a boost to achieving this easily as it allows citizens to see that the system is fair, correct, and just. The state of New Jersey, like most states, allows court proceedings, including trials, to be open to citizens. Notwithstanding their race, status race, gender, religion, ethnicity, or physical inability, all people are treated equally by New Jersey courts.

You will find important information on the different criminal court systems. Some of the different types of courts in New Jersey include:

  • The Supreme Court
  • The Superior Court
  • The Municipal Court

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest court and it reviews the decisions of the other lower courts. The court interprets laws that lead to its decision to either uphold or overturn the decision of the lower courts.  Cases in this court are decided by a Chief Justice and six Associate Judges.  As you will find out in this useful guide, the court’s primary purpose is to examine the proceedings and results of the lower courts’ cases. The court does not acknowledge juries, witnesses, or any new evidence.

The Superior Court

This is where trials are conducted. Each of the 21 counties in New Jersey has a Superior Court. Criminal, civil, and family law cases are tried in this court.

  • Criminal cases are those where a defendant is accused of a grave crime like murder or drug possession, among others. The state has to prove the defendant committed the crime. The jury embodies the community where the crime occurred. The main purpose of the jury is to hear the evidence presented by the prosecution and the defense.

Not all criminal cases are decided by a trial. Many are settled by plea bargains. Plea bargains have the defendant pleading guilty to the crimes in exchange for a lighter sentence. However, the judge is not bound to honor the recommendation. Plea bargains can be initiated before or during the trial.

  • Civil cases are those a victim claims injury by the defendant. Most civil cases have the plaintiff seeking damages or money as payment from the defendant. Civil jurors are usually Other civil cases may have a plaintiff filing lawsuits to demand their rights.
  • Judges determine such cases, and the victim may request the court to order action from the defendant(s). The people in civil cases can agree to settlements without a trial allowing each side to resolve a dispute adequately instead of risking a loss at trial.
  • Family cases deal with issues that affect the family. Such cases include divorce, adoption, juvenile delinquency, child abuse, child support, and internal violence. Due to their nature, judges are permitted to close some Family Court cases to the public.

The Superior Court includes the Appellant Division, the Tax Court, and  Municipal Courts. 

  • Tax court judges review the county boards of taxation settlements that determine how much property should be taxed. They also check the State Division of Taxation’s decisions on state income tax, sales tax, and business tax. New Jersey has 12 Tax Court judges.

Appeals courts handle cases involving people who disagree with their cases in other courts. Their functions include;

  • Reviewing decisions of lower courts
  • Interpreting statutes or laws established by State Legislature

Appellate courts in New Jersey are the Appellant Division of Superior Court and the New Jersey Supreme Court. 

The Appellant Division has cases reviewed and decided by a two- to – three panel of judges. No witnesses, jurors, or new evidence is considered here. Attorneys make legal arguments to the panel and appellate Division judges ask crucial and essential questions like whether the judge correctly describes the law to the jurors.

The Municipal Court

A majority of cases filed in states are heard in the Municipal Courts meaning the court handles a huge diversity of cases. Cases affecting motor-vehicle offenses are heard in the Municipal Court. Minor criminal offenses, including simple assault, trespassing, and shoplifting, defined in New Jersey as disorderly person offenses, are heard in Municipal Courts. Municipal Courts are operated by the city, township, or borough where the court is found. The state boasts 539 Municipal Courts.  

Federal Courts

In this nation, there are two different kinds of court systems: the federal court system and the state court system (this includes municipal and local courts). The federal judicial system is established by Article III of the United States Constitution. Supreme Court and authorizes Congress to establish circuit and district courts as lesser federal courts. Federal courts adjudicate cases concerning the United States. issues involving more than $75,000 between inhabitants of separate states, the Constitution, federal legislation, and disputes between states.

Both at the federal and state levels, there are two distinct types of courts: trial courts and appellate courts. The trial court’s primary responsibility is to settle cases by gathering the evidence and using legal standards to determine who is in the right. Determining whether the law was appropriately applied in the trial court and, in some situations, whether the statute is constitutional is the responsibility of the appeal court.

The three primary types of federal courts within the federal system are the 94 District Courts (trial courts), 13 Courts of Appeals (intermediate appellate courts), and the United States Supreme Court (the court of final review).

State Courts

A state court is a court that sits within a state’s territorial boundaries in the United States. Within the boundaries of each state, a separate court system handles both civil and criminal proceedings. These courts have the authority to interpret and apply state laws. If a case involves federal law and originates within the state but is not subject to the jurisdiction of a federal court, they may also hear the case. State courts often handle a broad range of matters, including everything from minor civil disputes and traffic infractions to serious criminal offenses and sophisticated civil litigation. State courts operate at many levels, including trial courts, lower-level appellate courts, and state supreme courts.

District Courts

The district courts serve as the general trial courts for the federal court system. For a lifetime appointment to each district court, the President must choose and the Senate must approve at least one United States District Judge. District courts judge over both civil and criminal proceedings under the federal court system. The districts correspond to those in the United States. Lawyers, as well as the U.S. Attorney is the federal government’s top prosecutor in their particular field.

District court judges are in charge of overseeing the employees and conducting the court. They are eligible to serve as long as they exhibit “good behavior,” but Congress has the power to impeach and remove them. There are more than 670 district court justices nationwide.

The district court delegated some duties to federal magistrate judges. Magistrates are chosen by the judges of the district court with a majority vote, and they are appointed for terms of eight years for full-time positions and four years for part-time positions. However, they are eligible for reappointment once their terms are over. In criminal cases, magistrate judges may preside over specific cases, order searches and arrests, hold preliminary proceedings, set bail, rule on specific motions (like a move to suppress evidence), and take other related measures. Magistrates frequently deal with a number of issues in civil proceedings, including pre-trial motions and discovery.

In addition, there are a few subject-specific federal trial courts. There is a bankruptcy court for those processes in each federal district. Additionally, certain courts have national jurisdiction over matters including tax disputes (United States Tax Court), claims against the federal government, and foreign business. (United States Court of International Trade).

Circuit Courts

A case may be appealed to a US court of appeal after the federal district court has rendered a decision. The division of the country into its many regions is the responsibility of twelve federal circuits. The Fifth Circuit, for example, includes Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. The Fifth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals, which has its administrative headquarters in New Orleans, Louisiana, hears appeals from district courts in those states. Additionally, particularly specific matters like patents fall under the worldwide authority of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

There are various numbers of judges on each circuit court, ranging from six on the First Circuit to twenty-nine on the Ninth Circuit. Circuit court judges are chosen by the president and confirmed by the Senate for a lifetime position.

Once the district court has rendered a ruling in any case, an appeal may be made to the circuit court (although some issues may be appealed prior to a final decision by filing a “interlocutory appeal”). In the first instance, appeals to those courts are heard by a panel of three circuit court justices. After the parties file their “briefs” with the court, the court will schedule “oral argument,” during which the attorneys appear before the court to present their arguments and respond to the judges’ questions.

The Ninth Circuit has a different en banc method than the other circuits, and it is unusual for the whole circuit court to consider an appeal in a “en banc hearing.” En banc rulings tend to be more substantial and are normally only issued after a panel has first heard the matter. A panel cannot reverse its prior decision once it has “published” its view on the matter and made a ruling. To have the first panel’s decision reviewed by the whole circuit, the panel may recommend that the circuit take the case up en banc.

A few courts have been established in addition to the Federal Circuit to handle appeals on particular topics such veterans’ claims and military matters. 

Juvenile Courts

Juvenile court, sometimes known as children’s court, is a special court that deals with issues involving neglected, mistreated, or delinquent children. The juvenile court serves as the government’s replacement parent, and other courts must step in when there is no juvenile court.

A juvenile court hears two different kinds of cases: civil proceedings, typically involving the care of an abandoned kid or a child whose parents are unable to sustain him, and criminal trials involving the child’s antisocial behavior.

Most laws mandate that anyone under a certain age—often 18 years old—be processed by the juvenile court first. The juvenile court may then, at its discretion, transfer the matter to an ordinary court.

The juvenile court system was created on the principle that kids deserve particular treatment. Its creators preferred rehabilitation above punishment because they believed it to be ineffective and unfair to punish a kid for transgression. The court functions informally and paternally to achieve this.

In Chicago, the first juvenile court was founded in 1899, and the idea quickly caught on around the globe. Although there are differences in organization and procedures, juvenile courts are now found in Europe, Latin America, Israel, Iraq, Japan, and other countries.

There has been substantial debate about whether the informality of juvenile court benefits or harms children, especially in the United States. Some contend that the goal of the court is defeated by overbooked court schedules and inept judges, and that the kid is deprived of their right to represent themselves in court without a corresponding easing of the severity of their punishment. As a result, American courts have expanded adolescents’ access to rights like the protection against self-incrimination, the right to fair notice of proceedings, the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, and the right to legal representation.

Military Courts

Courts-martial are military tribunals that hear accusations against service members or other individuals who fall under their authority. They also refer to the court-martial process itself. Soldiers in the past typically gave up any civil rights they might have had and were fully subject to the orders of their military superiors. Such military law was in place throughout Europe’s medieval era until the 16th century, when the first signs of a military court system emerged and military councils were established with the responsibility of deciding guilt and punishment.

The British Mutiny Act of 1689 established contemporary Anglo-American military law and allowed for the discipline of a standing army. The majority of contemporary nations have distinct military legal systems that are overseen by military tribunals and typically subject to civilian appellate review. Germany is a significant exception, leaving military personnel’s trial and punishment to civilian tribunals, excluding the most minor of violations.

Typically, courts-martial are set up on demand to hear one or more matters that the convening authority have referred. Only the commander of a significant military installation, a general or flag officer, or a higher military authority may convene a general court-martial. An officer of the brigade or regiment grade may call a special court-martial. The penalties that can be imposed by a special court-martial are only short-term incarceration and dishonorable discharge, as opposed to any offense being tried and any punishment being imposed by a general court-martial. The officers chosen by the convening officer to sit on the court, which decides guilt or innocence and imposes penalties, are drawn from his command.


There are many different types of criminal court systems. The purpose of the criminal court system is to ensure no crime or criminal goes unpunished. The system has different types of criminal courts to try different types of crimes. If you are charged with a crime, it’s prudent to consult a criminal lawyer.