History Of US Criminal Justice

History Of US Criminal Justice

Evolution of courts continues to define the manner unto which the judicial system operates. Trial and appellate, state and federal courts continue to borrow heavily on history. Magna Carta, colonial courts, and foreign legal systems have played a major role in the evolution of courts in the United States of America (Friedman, 2000). Differences that exist between appellate and trial courts have the basis of history and changes associated were consequently due various factors. In addition, the existence of state and federal courts is also due to the diverse factors defining the evolution of US courts. In is hence importance to have a comprehension of the evolution of the US courts and factors that affected the evolution. Accordingly, the following paper is a discussion of the evolution of US courts, understanding the common law, difference and similarities of distinct types of US courts and ways it was possible to alter the history for the betterment of courts.

Common law (also defined as precedent or case law) is a law enacted by judges through decisions provided by courts and tribunals of the same category. It also has a system known as common law system, which works on the principle that is unjust to handle same facts differently and on different instances (Schmalleger, 2007). In instances where parties involved fail to agree upon law as presented, the common law looks upon the earlier Precedential decisions of appropriate courts in order to solve the dispute. However, if there was another similar dispute and it was resolved, the courts follow the steps used in the case to solve the current one (stare decisis) (Friedman, 2000). Conversely, if the current case is much divergent from the previous ones, the court has the mandate to form a new law by precedent and which will connect future courts.

Throughout history, the United State courts have been undergoing various evolutions. The very existence of these courts has been through the influence of various factors among them the Magna Carta, colonial courts, and finally, the foreign legal heritage. Among them, the most influential was perhaps the Magna Carta. In was during the seventeenth century that the king of England did sign the document. Apparently, the growth of British colonies in America meant an extension of England institutions. Foreign legal systems such as the Roman law had direct influence on the evolution of the courts in the United States. Colonial courts influence was that there was synonymous in the entire continent (Meyer & Grant, 2003). The consequence of this is that most of the states in the United States would have similar judicial systems that conformed to the colonial courts.

Both the Federal and State courts have the mandate of delivering justice to citizens of the United States. On the other hand, the there are some differences that do exist between them. While the federal courts will exercise power through the application of the country’s constitution, the state courts mandate is limited to the constitution of their individual states (Schmalleger, 2007). Another synonymous characteristic between the types of courts in the United States is that if there exists a dissatisfaction of an individual upon the decision of a given courts they visit the subsequent courts such as court of appeal. While in the federal system, the highest court to deliberate on issues of constitution is the Supreme Court, in the state organizations the Supreme Court will only intervene in special cases. Finally, while there are various ways of appointing state judges the appointment of the federal judges is the mandate of the president.

While both institutions, that is, the trial and appellate courts are institutions of justice some differences are evident. To begin with while federal courts dealing with trial are district courts, appellate courts are courts of appeals after which the next resort is the Supreme Court. In addition, cases appearing in the courts for the first time are the obligation of the trial courts, if parties disagree on the outcome at the trial courts; appellate courts have the responsibility of dealing with such cases. Furthermore, in the instance of a trial courts there is presentation of new evidence and the courts deliberate upon such evidence, on the part of appellate courts have review old evidence and make judgments on whether lower courts did execute their mandate.

There are a number of ways that history altered the ways of the current judicial system. While some were advantageous given the power, I would try to alter some of them. Pre-sentence Investigation Report though to some level was important, provided some controversies. There are critical issues that would be better if some elements in history did change. Some of the aspects include avoiding the usage of hearsay, modes of dealing with various inaccuracies associated with it, and finally, the exclusion from proceedings of a trial (Meyer & Grant, 2003). If the system did not borrow heavily into the Roman law, such complications would probably be absent. Accordingly, history provided the judicial system with both advantages and disadvantages.


Meyer, J. F., & Grant, D. R. (2003). The courts in our criminal justice system. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.

Friedman, L. M. (2000). Crime and Punishment in American History. New York: Basic Books.

Schmalleger, F. (2007). Criminal Justice today. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.