The Government Class Book eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 319 pages of information about The Government Class Book.

Chapter XIX.

Courts other than Justices’ Courts; Grand and Petit Juries, &c.

Sec.1.  The court next higher than a justice’s court, is a court held in each county, generally called a county court, or court of common pleas.  This court is usually held by a county judge elected by the electors of the county in most of the states; in some, appointed by the legislature; and in others, by the governor, with the advice and consent of the senate.  In a few of the states this court consists of more than one judge.  In some states, county courts are held by judges of the circuit courts.

Sec.2.  In this court are tried civil causes in which are claimed sums of greater amount than a justice of the peace has jurisdiction of, and criminal causes in which are charged the lower crimes committed in the county.  Also causes removed by appeal from a justice’s court are tried in this court; in which cases it is said to have appellate jurisdiction.  Courts are also said to have original jurisdiction; which means that suits may originate or commence in such courts.

Sec.3.  There is in every state at least one court, and in most of the states there are two or more courts of higher grade than a county court.  They are called in the different states by different names; as circuit court, superior court, supreme court, and court of appeals.  A circuit court probably obtains its name thus:  A state is divided into judicial districts, in each of which one or more judges are elected, who go around holding a court once a year or oftener in each of the counties composing a judicial district.  This court usually has both original and appellate jurisdiction; it being a part of its business to try appeals from the county courts.  It also tries such of the higher crimes as a county court has not the power to try.  Courts in which crimes are tried are sometimes called courts of oyer and terminer.

Sec.4.  Every county court, and every circuit having like jurisdiction, has a jury to try issues of fact, and a grand jury.  An issue of fact is when the fact as to the indebtedness or the guilt of the party charged is to be determined from the testimony.  An issue of law is one in which it is to be determined what is the law in the case, which is done by the judge instead of the jury.  The jury by which issues of fact are tried, as distinguished from a grand jury, is called a petty or petit jury.  It consists of twelve men, all of whom must agree in a verdict.

Sec.5.  The manner of selecting grand and petit jurors is prescribed by law.  A number of judicious men in each town are selected by some person or persons lawfully authorized; and the names of the men so selected are written on separate pieces of paper, and put into a box in each town, and kept by the town clerk; or as is the practice in some states, the names of the men designated as jurors in the several towns are sent to the county clerk, and by him kept in a box.  Previous to the sitting of the court, the requisite number is drawn out the box; and the men whose names are drawn, are summoned to attend as jurors.

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The Government Class Book from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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