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The U.S Court Systems & Purpose of the Dual Court System

Loree Montelli, Christine Serva
  • Author
    Loree Montelli

    Loree is an experienced Psychology lecturer. She holds a degree in psychology from Nevada State College,

  • Instructor
    Christine Serva

    Christine has an M.A. in American Studies, the study of American history/society/culture. She is an instructional designer, educator, and writer.

Learn about the United States court system and how the dual court system is used. Explore the history of the United States judicial system and how it functions. Updated: 07/08/2022

Table of Contents


What is a Dual Court System?

A dual court system comprises two court systems operating independently. One of the two key parts of this system is the state court. The other is the federal court. The function of the state court is to act on the local level. On the other hand, the federal court runs issues that affect the nation. The state governments are given the authority to create their own laws; hence, each law varies from state to state. However, federal laws are constant everywhere in the U.S.

John is a resident of Arizona. He is suing an alleged credit card fraudster Ken, a Texas resident, for stealing his credit card and withdrawing a total of $100,000. Since the plaintiff and the defendant do not share common state citizenship, their case is being heard in a federal court. The diversity of citizenship requires both parties to defend themselves in an unbiased court.

The dual court system works by dividing the cases to be heard in federal and state courts. Most crimes such as rape, murder, and robbery violate the state laws and are hence heard in the state courts. On the other hand, cases that involve a foreign government, Native American rights, copyright infringement, or controversies between different states are heard in federal court. The federal court also hears a dispute involving parties from a different state in which damages of at least $75,000 is involved.

The dual court system works efficiently in the United States. However, it is essential to understand the reason behind the formation of this court system. So why does America have a dual court system? Some of the Framers that wrote the Constitution created the dual court system out of fear that the states and people might lose their independence to the federal government. For the states to maintain their judiciary structure and legislative authority, the Founders choose to limit the federal court cases. This is known as limited jurisdiction. This means that the federal court can only hear special cases; the rest are left to the state courts.

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When was the United States Judicial Branch Created?

Before the development of the Constitution, the United States did not have a judiciary branch. Article III played a massive impact on the creation of the U.S. court system. This is because it created a federal court system with the authority to create district courts. But who created the federal court system? The system was created by the first congress after they created the Judiciary Act. The Act defined the federal court system structure, including the number of chief justices, circuit courts, the Supreme Court, and the district courts.

The constant debate since the establishment of the court system has been how to balance the nation's interest with the individual states' interests. The Judicial branch uses federalism to balance the national and individual state interests. Federalism can be defined as the division of power between the state government and the federal government. Both have two types of power: exclusive power and concurrent power, which help to balance the power between the two governments. Exclusive powers are exercised by an individual order of government, either the state government or the national government. Concrete powers are the powers that are shared by both the state government and the federal government.

What was the Judiciary Act of 1789?

The first congress created a particular act that led to the establishment of the current court system. The Judiciary Act of Congress established the federal court system. The Act served numerous purposes. This Act led to the development of the judicial branch, which constitutes of three parts, namely:

  • The district court: The Judiciary Act partitioned the country into districts. One district court comprises one judge and some attorneys whose role would be to preside over criminal and civil actions.

A picture of the Springdale District Court

The picture shows the entrance of a district court in Springdale in Arkansas. There are two trees and two entrances on the building.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why was the judicial branch founded?

The judicial branch was founded to check the legislature and the executive power. It was also established to settle conflicts between various states.

What did the Judiciary Act of 1789 do?

This Act defined the federal court system structure. The Act also defined the number of district courts and circuit courts.

How does the U.S. court system work?

The U.S court system has a constitution that resolves conflicts concerning federal laws. The state court is also left to solve disputes concerning their states.

What type of court system does the United States use?

The United States uses the dual court system. Issues concerning divorce and robbery in a particular state are heard in the state court, and matters concerning individuals of different states are presided by the federal court.

What is the significance of the dual court system?

This system is significant because both are ready to protect citizens' rights. If an innocent person is charged, they can seek justice in another venue.

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