The State Court SystemThis graphic shows the tiers of the state court system. Graphic by Tony Rogers
The bottom rung of this graphic represents local courts that go by a variety of names - district, county, magistrate, etc. These courts generally hear minor cases and arraignments.
The next rung represents specialized courts dealing with family issues, juveniles,landlord-tenant disputes, etc.
The next level involves state superior courts, where felony trials are heard. Of all trials held in the U.S. each year, the vast majority are heard in state superior courts.
At the top of the state court system are state supreme courts, where appeals of verdicts rendered in state superior courts are heard.
The Structure of the Federal Court SystemThis graphic shows the tiers of the federal court system. Graphic by Tony Rogers
The bottom rung of the graphic represents federal federal district courts, where most federal court cases begin. However, unlike the local courts in the state court system, federal district courts - also known as U.S. District Courts - hear serious cases that involve violations of federal law.
The next rung of the graphic represents specialized courts that deal with cases involving taxes, commerce and trade.
The next rung represents the U.S. Courts of Appeals, where appeals of verdicts rendered in U.S. District Courts are heard.
The top rung represents the U.S. Supreme Court. Like the U.S. Courts of Appeals, the Supreme Court is an appellate court. But the Supreme Court only hears appeals of cases that involve fundamental issues of the U.S. Constitution.