Judicial System of the RF, GB and USA

Judicial System of the Russian Federation 1. In all legal systems there are institutions for modifying, interpreting and applying the law. Usually these take the form of a hierarchy of courts as a branch of government established to administer justice. The role of each court and its capacity to make decisions is strictly defined in relation to other courts.


Judicial System of the Russian Federation

1. In all legal systems there are institutions for modifying, interpreting and applying the law. Usually these take the form of a hierarchy of courts as a branch of government established to administer justice. The role of each court and its capacity to make decisions is strictly defined in relation to other courts. There are two main reasons for having a variety of courts. One is that a particular court can specialize in particular kinds of legal actions (for example, family courts). The other is that a person who feels his case was not fairly treated in a lower court can appeal to a higher court for reassessment . The decisions of a higher court are binding upon lower courts.

2. The structure of our judicial system and the sphere of activities of its various parts are determined by the Constitution and federal constitutional laws. There are three main elements within this system: the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the Higher Arbitration Court.

3. The Constitutional Court of the RF considers cases relating to the compliance of the federal laws, normative acts of the President, the Council of the Federation, the State Duma, the Government, constitutions of republics, charters and other normative acts of the subjects of the RF with the country’s Constitution. There is a separate system of the constitutional courts (or charter courts ) of the republics and other subjects of the Federation.

4. The Supreme Court is the highest judicial body of the four-tiered system of courts of general jurisdiction: civil, criminal, administrative and military cases. Lower courts are district, city and regional courts. After the reestablishment of the Justices of the Peace in 2000 magistrate’s courts have become an integral part of the system of courts of general jurisdiction. The activity of all these courts may be classified as follows: a court of trial, a court of appeal, a court of cassation.

5. The Higher Arbitration Court is the supreme judicial body within the system of courts competent to settle economic disputes. The basic judicial organs in that system are arbitration courts of the subjects of the Federation.

6. Each court has its staff which usually consists of legally qualified judges , clerks and bailiffs . The participants of the legal procedure may be the following: a plaintiff – the party bringing a lawsuit, a defendant – a party being sued, a jury – a group of ordinary people summoned to pass a verdict, a prosecutor - the lawyer for the plaintiff in a criminal case, an advocate - a lawyer for defence or just a legal counsel in civil cases, witnesses - people who give testimony, experts - they express their own opinions.

The history of constitutional court in Russia

December 25, 1989 the Constitutional Supervision Committee was created. It started functioning mid-1990 and was dissolved towards the end of 1991. In December 1990 the Constitution of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR) was amended with provisions which provided for creation of Constitutional Court (whereas a similar USSR body was called a Committee, not a Court). On July 12, 1991 Constitutional Court of the RSFSR Act was adopted. In October the Fifth RSFSR Congress of Soviets elected 13 members of the Court and the Constitutional Court de facto started functioning. From November 1991 till October 1993 it rendered some decisions of great significance. For example, it declared unconstitutional certain decrees of Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, which were adopted ultra vires, and forbade the practice of extrajudicial eviction.

On October 7, 1993 Boris Yeltsin's decree suspended work of the Constitutional Court. According to the decree, the Constitutional Court was "in deep crisis". On December 24 another presidential decree repealed the Constitutional Court of the RSFSR Act. In July 1994 the new Constitutional Court Act was adopted. However, the new Constitutional Court started working only in February, 1995, because the Federation Council of Russia refused several times to appoint judges nominated by Yeltsin.

In 2005 the federal authorities proposed to transfer the court from Moscow to Saint Petersburg.

President Dmitry Medvedev on June 2, 2009 signed an amendment whereby the chairperson of the court and his deputies would be proposed to the parliament by the president rather than elected by the judges, as was the case before.[1]

Constitutional Court Judge Vladimir Yaroslavtsev in an interview to the Spanish newspaper 2009, claimed that the presidential executive office and security services had undermined judicial independence in Russia. In October the Constitutional Court accused Yaroslavtsev of "undermining the authority of the judiciary" in violation of the judicial code and forced him to resign from the Council of Judges. Judge Anatoly Kononov had supported Yaroslavtsev in his interview to Sobesednik. The Constitutional Court forced Kononov to step down from the Constitutional Court on January 1, 2010, 7 years ahead of schedule.

Law of the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has three legal systems. English law, which applies in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland law, which applies in Northern Ireland, are based on common-law principles. Scots law, which applies in Scotland, is a pluralistic system based on civil-law principles, with common law elements dating back to the High Middle Ages. The Treaty of Union, put into effect by the Acts of Union in 1707, guaranteed the continued existence of a separate law system for Scotland. The Acts of Union between Great Britain and Ireland in 1800 contained no equivalent provision but preserved the principle of separate courts to be held in Ireland, now Northern Ireland

The Appellate Committee of the House of Lords (usually just referred to, as "The House of Lords") was the highest court in the land for all criminal and civil cases inEngland and Wales and Northern Ireland, and for all civil cases in Scots law, but in October 2009 was replaced by the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

In England and Wales, the court system is headed by the Supreme Court of England and Wales, consisting of the Court of Appeal, the High Court of Justice (for civil cases) and the Crown Court (for criminal cases). The Courts of Northern Ireland follow the same pattern. In Scotland the chief courts are the Court of Session, for civil cases, and the High Court of Justiciary, for criminal cases. Sheriff courts have no equivalent outside Scotland as these Courts deal both with criminal and civil caseloads.

The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is the highest court of appeal for several independent Commonwealth countries, the British overseas territories, and the British Crown dependencies. There are also immigration courts with UK-wide jurisdiction — the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal and Special Immigration Appeals Commission. The Employment tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal have jurisdiction throughout Great Britain, but not Northern Ireland.

1. Three legal systems

There are three distinct legal jurisdictions in the United Kingdom: England and Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.Each has its own legal system.

1.1.English law

"English law" is a term of art. It refers to the legal system administered by the courts in England and Wales. The ultimate body of appeal is the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. They rule on both civil and criminal matters. English law is renowned as being the mother of the common law. English law can be described as having its own distinct legal doctrine, distinct from civil law legal systems since 1189. There has been no major codification of the law, andjudicial precedents are binding as opposed to persuasive. In the early centuries, the justices and judges were responsible for adapting the Writ system to meet everyday needs, applying a mixture of precedent and common sense to build up a body of internally consistent law, e.g., the Law Merchant began in the Pie-Powder Courts see Court of Piepowder (a corruption of the French "pieds-poudrés" or "dusty feet", meaning ad hoc marketplace courts). As Parliamentdeveloped in strength, and subject to the doctrine of separation of powers, legislation gradually overtook judicial law making so that, today, judges are only able to innovate in certain very narrowly defined areas. Time before 1189 was defined in 1276 as being time immemorial.

After the Acts of Union, in 1707, English law has been one of two legal systems in the same kingdom and has been influenced by Scots law, most notably in the development and integration of the law merchant by Lord Mansfield and in time the development of the law of negligence. Scottish influence may have influenced the abolition of the forms of action in the nineteenth century and extensive procedural reforms in the twentieth.

1.2.Northern Irish legal system

The law of Northern Ireland is a common law system. It is administered by the courts of Northern Ireland, with ultimate appeal to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom in both civil and criminal matters. The law of Northern Ireland is closely similar to English law, the rules of common law having been imported into the Kingdom of Ireland under English rule. However there are still important differences.

The sources of the law of Northern Ireland are English common law, and statute law. Of the latter, statutes of the Parliaments of Ireland, of the United Kingdom and of Northern Ireland are in force, and latterly statutes of the devolved Assembly.

1.3.Scots law

Scots law is a unique legal system with an ancient basis in Roman law. Grounded in uncodified civil law dating back to the Corpus Juris Civilis, it also features elements of common law with medieval sources. Thus Scotland has a pluralistic, or 'mixed', legal system, comparable to that of South Africa, and, to a lesser degree, the partly codified pluralistic systems of Louisiana and Quebec. Since the Acts of Union, in 1707, it has shared a legislature with the rest of the United Kingdom. Scotland and England & Wales each retained fundamentally different legal systems, but the Union brought English influence on Scots law and vice versa. In recent years Scots law has also been affected by both European law under the Treaty of Rome and the establishment of the Scottish Parliament which may pass legislation within its areas of legislative competence as detailed by the Scotland Act 1998.

English Judiciary

1. The Civil Courts . Civil actions take place between two or more individuals in dispute. These disputes can take many forms, for example between neighbours, families, companies, consumers and manufacturers. It is the function of the civil courts to adjudicate on these disputes.

2. The lowest court in a civil action is a county court , of which there is one in every town in England and Wales. There are some 250 county courts. Each court is assigned at least one circuit judge and one district judge. The circuit judge usually hears the high-value claims and matters of greater importance or complexity. The district judge hears uncontested matters, mortgage repossession claims and small-value claims. The circuit judge deals with appeals from decisions by the district judge.

3. The jurisdiction of the county courts covers: actions founded upon contract and tort; trust and mortgage cases; action for the recovery of land ; disputes between landlords and tenants, complaints about race and sex discrimination; admiralty cases (maritime questions and offences) and patent cases; divorce cases and other family matters. The general limit in such cases heard before the county court is 25,000 pounds .

4. Cases involving larger amounts of money are heard by one of the divisions of the High Court . This court has unlimited civil jurisdiction and consists of three branches:

- the Queen’s Bench Division , which is concerned with contract and tort cases, and deals with applications for judicial review;

- the Chancery Division , which deals with corporate and personal insolvency , disputes in the running of companies , between landlords and tenants and in intellectual property matters; and the interpretation of trusts and contested wills, and

- the Family Division , which is concerned with family law, including adoption and divorce.

Judges in the County Courts are circuit judges who rank equally with those who sit in the Crown Court. They are assisted by district judges.

5. Appeals in matrimonial , adoption, guardianship and child care proceedings heard by magistrates courts go to the Family Division of the High Court. The Chancery Division hears appeals about bankruptcy and company insolvency decisions. The Queen’s Bench Division exercises jurisdiction in respect of habeas corpus cases . Appeals from the High Court and county courts are heard in the Court of Appeal (Civil Division), which is presided over by the Master of the Rolls .

The Court of Appeal normally consists of three judges. Each one delivers a judgment , and the majority opinion prevails. The Court has the power to order a new trial or the reversal or variation of a judgment.

6. In accordance with the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, the judicial functions of the House of Lords as of the final national court of appeal in civil and criminal cases are set to be transferred in 2009 to a new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. This Supreme Court of the UK shall consist of 12 judges appointed by the Monarch by letters patent . One of the judges becomes President and one is appointed to be Deputy President of the Court. The judges other than the President and Deputy President are styled “Justices of the Supreme Court”.

The first Supreme Court judges are the current twelve Lords of Appeal in Ordinary but the new members of the Court will not take the peerage .

7. The Criminal Courts . There are two main types of court, magistrates' courts (or courts of first instance), which deal with about 95 per cent of criminal cases, and Crown Courts for more serious offences. All criminal cases above the level of magistrates' courts are held before a jury.

8. There are about 700 magistrates' courts in England and Wales, served by - approximately 28,000 unpaid or lay' magistrates or Justices of the Peace (JPs), who have been dealing with 'minor crimes for over 600 years. JPs are ordinary citizens chosen from the community. These people are not legally qualified but receive some basic training in court procedures, the examination of pre-sentence reports and penalties for certain offences. Lay magistrates usually sit in groups of three. The more senior magistrate sits in the middle and plays the leading role. They should not all be of the same sex. Serving members of the lay magistracy are entitled to use the letters 'JP' after their names meaning that they are Justices of the Peace.

Magistrates' courts may not impose a sentence of more than six months imprisonment or a fine of more than £2,000, and may refer cases requiring a heavier penalty to the Crown Court.

9. The most serious crimes are tried and sentenced in the Crown Court. These crimes are known as indictable offences. All judges, sitting in the Crown Court have unlimited sentencing powers subject to the legal maximum. The judge presides over the Crown Court and passes sentence (if the defendant is found guilty). In a Crown Court trial there are twelve jurors. These are ordinary members of the public between the ages of 18 and 70 who are selected at random from electoral register . The main function of the jury is to judge the guilt or innocence of the defendant.

10. A person convicted in a magistrates' court may appeal against its decision to the Crown Court. An appeal against a decision of the Crown Court may be taken to the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division), but it is seldom successful. Judges in the Court of Appeal may confirm , reverse or vary the original sentence. The Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal is headed by the Lord Chief Justice .

Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

Judicial System of the RF, GB and USA
Badge of the Supreme Court
Established October 2009
Jurisdiction United Kingdom
Location Middlesex Guildhall, London
Composition method Appointed by Monarch on advice of Prime Minister.
Chosen name recommended to PM by a selection commission.
Authorized by Constitutional Reform Act 2005, Part 3[1]
Number of positions 12
Website www.supremecourt.gov.uk
President of the Supreme Court
Currently Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers
Since 1 October 2009

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is the supreme court in all matters under English law, Northern Irish law and Scottish civil law. It is the court of last resort and highest appellate court in the United Kingdom; however the High Court of Justiciary remains the supreme court for criminal cases inScotland. The Supreme Court has jurisdiction to resolve disputes relating to devolution — cases in which the legal powers of the three devolved governments or laws made by the devolved legislatures are questioned. It shares the Middlesex Guildhall in the City of Westminster, with the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

The Supreme Court was established by Part 3 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 and started work on 1 October 2009. It assumed the judicial functions of the House of Lords, which were exercised by the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (commonly called "Law Lords"), the 12 professional judges appointed as members of the House of Lords to carry out its judicial business. Its jurisdiction over devolution matters had previously been held by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

1. Jurisdiction

The main role of the UK Supreme Court is to hear appeals from courts in the United Kingdom's three legal systems: England and Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland. (English and Welsh law differ only to the extent that the National Assembly for Wales makes laws for Wales that differ from those in England, and the two countries have a shared court system.) The Supreme Court acts as the highest court for civil appeals from the Court of Session in Scotland but the highest appeal for criminal cases is kept in Scotland. It may hear appeals from the civil Court of Session, just as the House of Lords did previously.

From the Court of Session, permission to appeal is not required and any case can proceed to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom if two Advocates certify that an appeal is suitable. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, leave to appeal is required either from the Court of Appeal or from a Justice of the Supreme Court itself.

The Court's focus is on cases that raise points of law of general public importance. Like the previous Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, appeals from many fields of law are likely to be selected for hearing—including commercial disputes, family matters, judicial review claims against public authorities and issues under theHuman Rights Act 1998. The Court also hears some criminal appeals, but not from Scotland as there is no right of appeal from the High Court of Justiciary, Scotland's highest criminal court.

The Supreme Court also determines "devolution issues" (as defined by the Scotland Act 1998, the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and the Government of Wales Act 2006). These are legal proceedings about the powers of the three devolved administrations—the Northern Ireland Executive and Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament, and the Welsh Assembly Government and the National Assembly for Wales. Devolution issues were previously heard by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and most are about compliance with rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, brought into national law by the Devolution Acts and the Human Rights Act 1998.

The twelve justices do not all hear every case - typically a case will be heard by a panel of five justices, but sometimes the panel may consist of three, seven or nine members. All twelve justices are also members of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and spend some of their time in that capacity.

2. History

The creation of a Supreme Court for the United Kingdom was first mooted in a July 2003 Department of Constitutional Affairs Consultation Paper. Although the report noted that there had been no criticism of the current law lords, or any indication of an actual bias, it argued that the separation of the judicial functions of the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords should be made explicit from the legislative functions of the House of Lords. First, it was concerned whether there is any longer sufficient transparency of independence from the executive and the legislature to give assurance of the independence of the judiciary. Looked at alternatively it was argued that requirement for the appearance of impartiality and independence also limited the ability of the Law Lords to contribute to the work of the House of Lords, thus reducing the value to both them and the House of their membership. Second, it was concerned that it was not always understood by the public that judicial decisions of "the House of Lords" were in fact taken by the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords and that non-judicial members were never involved in its judgements. Conversely, it was felt that the extent to which the Law Lords themselves have decided to refrain from getting involved in political issues in relation to legislation on which they might later have to adjudicate was not always appreciated. The new President of the Court, Lord Phillips, has claimed that their old position had confused people and that with the Supreme Court there would for the first time in the UK be a clear separation of powers among the judiciary, the legislature and the executive. Finally, it was noted that space within the House of Lords was at a constant premium and a separate supreme court would ease the pressure on the Palace of Westminster.

The main argument against the court was that the previous system had worked well and kept costs down. Reformers expressed concerns that the historical admixture of legislative, judicial and executive power in the UK might conflict with the state's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. Officials who make or execute laws have an interest in court cases that put those laws to the test. When the state invests judicial authority in those officials, it puts the independence and impartiality of the courts at risk. Consequently, it was supposedly possible that the decisions of the Law Lords might be challenged in theEuropean Court of Human Rights on the basis that they had not constituted a fair trial.

Lord Neuberger has expressed fear that the new court could make itself more powerful than the House of Lords committee it succeeded, saying that there is a real risk of "judges arrogating to themselves greater power than they have at the moment". Lord Phillips said such an outcome was "a possibility", but was "unlikely".

The reforms were controversial and were brought forward with little consultation but were subsequently extensively debated in Parliament. During 2004, a select committee of the House of Lords scrutinised the arguments for and against setting up a new court. The Government estimated the set-up cost of the Supreme Court at £56.9 million.

The Supreme Court was established by Part 3 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 and started work on 1 October 2009. It assumed the judicial functions of the House of Lords, which were exercised by the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (commonly called "Law Lords"), the 12 professional judges appointed as members of the House of Lords to carry out its judicial business. Its jurisdiction over devolution matters had previously been held by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

3. Other supreme courts in the United Kingdom

The High Court of Justiciary, the Court of Session and the Office of the Accountant of Court comprise the College of Justice, and are known as the Supreme Courts of Scotland.

Before 1 October 2009, there were two other courts known as supreme court, namely the Supreme Court of England and Wales , which was created in the 1870s under the Judicature Acts, and theSupreme Court of Judicature in Northern Ireland , each of which consists of a Court of Appeal, High Court of Justice and Crown Court. When the provisions of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 came into force, those became known as the Senior Courts of England and Wales and the Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland respectively, to avoid confusion.

4. Composition


4.1.1. President

Main article: President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

The current President of the Court is Nicholas Phillips, Baron Phillips of Worth Matravers, former Master of the Rolls and Lord Chief Justice, and previously the Senior Lord of Appeal in Ordinary.

4.1.2. Deputy President

Main article: Deputy President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

The current Deputy President of the Court is David Hope, Baron Hope of Craighead, one of the two present Scottish judges and former Lord President of the Court of Session.

4.1.3. Justices

Main article: Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom

Justices of the Supreme Court are not subject to term limits, but may be removed from office on the address of Parliament. All British judges (including Supreme Court justices) are forced to retire at the age of 70 if first appointed to a judicial office after 31 March 1995, or at the age of 75 otherwise.

4.1.4. Acting judges

In addition to the twelve permanent Justices, the President may request other senior judges, drawn from two groups, to sit as "acting judges" of the Supreme Court.

- The first group is those judges who hold 'office as a senior territorial judge': judges of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales, judges of the Court of Appeal of Northern Ireland and judges of the First or Second Division of the Inner House of the Court of Session in Scotland.

- The second group is known as the 'supplementary panel'. The President may approve in writing retired senior judges' membership of this panel if they are under 75 years of age.

4.1.5. Chief Executive and Registrar

The first Chief Executive of the Court is Jenny Rowe, and the first Registrar, Louise di Mambro.

4.2.Appointments process

The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 makes provision for a new appointments process for Justices of the Supreme Court. A selection commission will be formed when vacancies arise. This will be composed of the President and Deputy President of the Supreme Court and a member of the Judicial Appointments Commission of England and Wales, the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotlandand the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission. In October 2007, the Ministry of Justice announced that this appointments process would be adopted on a voluntary basis for appointments of Lords of Appeal in Ordinary. New judges appointed to the Supreme Court after its creation will not necessarily receive peerages.

4.3.Initial justices

Ten Lords of Appeal in Ordinary (Law Lords) holding office on 1 October 2009 became the first justices of the 12-member Supreme Court. The 11th place on the Supreme Court was filled by Lord Clarke (formerly the Master of the Rolls), who was the first Justice to be appointed directly to the Supreme Court. One of the former Law Lords, Lord Neuberger, was appointed to replace Lord Clarke as Master of the Rolls, and so did not move to the new court. Sir John Dyson became the 12th and final justice of the Supreme Court on 13 April 2010.

The Senior Law Lord on 1 October 2009, Lord Phillips, became the Supreme Court's first President.

The first and current Justices, in order of seniority (from 13 April 2010), are:

5. Building

The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 gave time for a suitable building to be found and fitted out before the Law Lords moved out of the Houses of Parliament, where they had previously used a series of rooms strung out along a corridor in the House of Lords.

After a lengthy survey of suitable sites, including Somerset House, the Government announced that the new court would be located in the Middlesex Guildhall, in Parliament Square, Westminster. That decision was the subject of an inquiry by a committee of Parliament, and the grant of planning permission by Westminster City Council for refurbishment works was challenged in judicial review proceedings by the conservation group SAVE Britain's Heritage. It was also reported that English Heritage had been put under enormous pressure to approve the scheme. Feilden + Mawson LLP, supported by Foster & Partners, were appointed architects for the project.

The building had formerly been used as a headquarters for Middlesex County Council and the Middlesex Quarter Sessions, and later as a Crown Court centre.

6. Badge

Judicial System of the RF, GB and USA

The emblem with stylised depictions of the four floral emblems.

The official badge of the Supreme Court was granted by the College of Arms in October 2008. It comprises both the Greek letter omega (representing finality) and the symbol of Libra (symbolising the scales of justice), in addition to the four floral emblems of the United Kingdom: a Tudor rose, representing England, conjoined with the leaves of a leek, representing Wales; a flax for Northern Ireland; and a thistle, representing Scotland.

Two adapted versions of its official badge are used by the Supreme Court. One (above, in infobox at top right portion of this article) features the words "The Supreme Court" and the letter omega in black (in the official badge granted by the College of Arms, the interior of the Latin and Greek letters are gold and white, respectively), and displays a simplified version of the crown (also in black) and larger, stylised versions of the floral emblems; this modified version of the badge is featured on the new Supreme Court website, as well as in the forms that will be used by the Supreme Court. A further variant on the above omits the crown entirely and is featured prominently throughout the building.

Yet another emblem is formed from a more abstract set of depictions of the four floral emblems and is used in the carpets of the Middlesex Guildhall. It was designed by Sir Peter Blake, famous for designing the cover of The Beatles' 1967 album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Crown C ourt

This article is about the British court.

The Crown Court of England and Wales is, together with the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal, one of the constituent parts of the Senior Courts of England and Wales. It is the higher court of first instance in criminal cases; however, for some purposes the Crown Court is hierarchically subordinate to the High Court and its Divisional Courts.

The Crown Court sits in around 90 locations in England and Wales. The administration of the Crown Court is conducted through HM Courts Service. Previously conducted across six circuits (Midland, Northern, North Eastern, South Eastern, Wales & Chester and Western), HM Courts Service is now divided into seven regions: Midlands, North East, North West, South East, South West, London and Wales. The Wales region was identified separately, having regard to the devolved legislative powers of the Welsh Assembly Government [1]. The Central Criminal Court at the Old Bailey, originally established by its own Act of Parliament, is part of the Crown Court, and is the venue at which many of the most serious criminal cases are heard.

The Crown Court carries out four principal types of activity: appeals from decisions of magistrates; sentencing of defendants committed from magistrates’ courts, jury trials, and the sentencing of those who are convicted in the Crown Court, either after trial or on pleading guilty. On average, defendants in custody face a waiting time of 13 weeks and 3 days. Those on bail experience greater delay, waiting on average 15 weeks and 4 days until their case is heard. Rather than speaking of a location at which the Crown Court sits, it is common practice to refer to any venue as a Crown court, e.g., Teesside Crown court.

1. Appeals from the Magistrates' Court

See also: Challenges to the decisions of Magistrates' Courts

In 2003-4 the Crown Court heard 11,707 appeals against conviction and/or sentence from those convicted in the magistrates' courts. At the conclusion of the hearing the Crown Court has the power to confirm, reverse or vary any part of the decision under appeal. If the appeal is decided against the accused, the Crown Court has the power to impose any sentence which the magistrates could have imposed, including one which is harsher than the one originally imposed. There was a waiting time of just over 8 weeks for appeals; 90% of appellants waited 14 weeks or less.

2. Defendants committed from magistrates for sentencing

In 2003-4 the Crown Court dealt with 31,018 cases for sentencing from the magistrates. As the Magistrates' Court only has the power to impose a six-month custodial sentence or a £5,000 fine, the court has the power to commit defendants to the Crown Court for sentencing — this can be done when they are of the opinion that either the offence, or the combination of the offence and one or more offences associated with it, was so serious that greater punishment should be inflicted than the Magistrates' Court has power to impose, or, in the case of a violent or sexual offence, that a custodial sentence longer than the court has power to impose is necessary to protect the public from serious harm. Committals may also arise from breaches of the terms of a Community Rehabilitation Order or a suspended sentence of imprisonment. The court performance target is that cases committed for sentence should be heard within 10 weeks.

3. Trials

The Crown Court disposed of 83,247 committals for trial in 2003-4. Taking into account 29,752 cases still outstanding, the implied waiting time for trials was 18.5 weeks. This is the time between committal or lodging an appeal and the start of the Crown Court hearing. This level of delay has been gradually worsening over the last 6 years. The average time to try a case on a plea of not guilty is about 7 hours. Since the average length of a sitting day is 4.33 hours, this implies that a not guilty case takes just over the equivalent of one and a half court days.

4. Appeals from the Crown Court

Main article: Appeals from the Crown Court

See also: Courts of England and Wales

When the Crown Court is dealing with a matter connected with a trial on indictment (i.e., a jury trial), appeal lies to the criminal division of the Court of Appeal and thence to the Supreme Court. In all other cases, appeal from the Crown Court lies by way of case stated to a Divisional Court of the High Court.

5. Judges

The Judges who normally sit in the Crown Court are High Court Judges, Circuit Judges and Recorders. Circuit Judges also sit in the County Court. Recorders are Barristers or Solicitors in private practice, who sit part time as Judges. The most serious cases (treason, murder, rape etc.) are allocated to High Court Judges and Senior Circuit Judges. The remainder are dealt with by Circuit Judges and Recorders, although Recorders will normally handle less serious work than Circuit Judges. The allocation is conducted according to directions given by the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales.

6. History of the Crown Court

The Crown Court was established in 1972 by the Courts Act 1971 to replace the courts of Assize and Quarter Sessions. The Crown Court is a permanent unitary court across England and Wales, whereas the Assizes were periodic local courts heard before judges of the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court, who travelled across the seven circuits into which England and Wales were divided, assembling juries in the Assize Towns and hearing cases. The Quarter Sessions were local courts assembled four times a year to dispose of criminal cases which were not serious enough to go before a High Court judge.

A Crown Court and a County Court may be located in the same building and use the same jurors. Since the establishment of Her Majesty's Courts Service in April 2005 there is an increased sharing of facilities between Crown Courts, County Courts and Magistrates' Courts.

7. Physical layout

At the front of the court, on a raised platform, is a large bench. This is where the judge sits. His rank can be distinguished by the colour of gown worn, and different forms of address are appropriate for different ranks of judge, with "your honour" being the most common. The judge enters from a door at the side of the platform, preceded by a cry of "court rise" from the usher or clerk of the court who sits below and in front of the judge's bench. Everyone in the court is expected to show his subjection to the Court by standing as the Judge enters and until he sits down.

The clerk of the court, who sits facing the court (that is, the same way as the judge) has a smaller desk on which sits a telephone, used when communication is necessary with other parts of the court building (for example the jury assembly area or the cell complex).

Also in the area just in front of the judge's bench is the sound recordist. Proceedings will be recorded on a double deck cassette recorder with one tape or the other being changed at intervals. This record may be used if the case later goes to appeal.

Additionally there may be a court reporter who also records proceedings on a stenograph, by typing keys as the witnesses speak, using special shorthand. Alternatively, if there is no stenographer, a tapelogger or shorthand writer will be there to operate the tapes and ensure that a log of the proceedings is kept.

Facing the clerk will be the usher. If papers or other objects need to be passed around the court, for example notes from members of the jury, or evidence being shown to the jury, normally the usher will do this and will be the only person in the court to walk around while the court is in session.

Behind the usher, wearing black gowns and white wigs and facing the judge, will be the prosecuting and defending barristers. The defending barrister will usually be nearest the jury. They will also be likely to have laptop computers in addition to files of papers relating to the case which will be on the desk in front of them. Unlike the judge, who speaks sitting down, the barristers always stand to address the court.

Behind or alongside the barristers will sit the instructing solicitors, which in the case of the prosecution will either be a representative of the Crown Prosecution Service or policemen concerned with the case. The latter is more common with trials, whilst the former is more apparent in sentences, plea and case management hearings and other such cases.

At the back of the courtroom, behind the barristers, is a semi-partitioned area known as the "dock". This is where the defendant or defendants are placed. A custody officer will be sitting with them in the dock.

Also at the back of the court, often adjacent to the dock, is a small area where the public can observe the proceedings. In some courts, notably the Old Bailey, this area is positioned above the defendant.

Taking of notes is usually forbidden in the public gallery. Members of the press must sit in the press bench, which is usually positioned alongside the prosecuting barrister. Etiquette usually requires reporters to identify themselves to the usher before taking position here and starting to write.

Alongside the defending barrister is the jury box. This is where the jury watch the case from. They will be called to it from the jury waiting area (benches next to it) to be sworn in. Once sworn they always sit in the same seat throughout the trial. If proceedings (such as legal argument about the admissibility of evidence) take place which they are not supposed to see occur, the usher will escort them into a room just outside the courtroom (probably behind the dock). Only jurors and ushers ever enter this room.

Opposite the jury box is the witness box. Witnesses stand facing the jury and give their evidence so the jury can watch their demeanor while giving it, which might help them decide if the witness is being truthful.

When the judge sends the jury to consider their verdict, the usher escorts them to a small suite consisting of a large table, 12 chairs, lavatory facilities, paper and pencils, a button with which to call the usher and prominent notices about not revealing deliberations to anyone else. The usher withdraws, and when the jury have arrived at a verdict, they push the button.

During deliberations only limited contact is permitted with the outside world, always via the usher. The jury will be permitted only (a) to call for refreshments, (b) to pass a note to the judge, perhaps asking for further guidance, or (c) to announce that they have reached a verdict. The judge may decide to recall them to the court to address them again at any time.

8. Circuits

Originally, the court was divided into six circuits as follows:

Circuit Area




South Eastern

Wales and Chester


Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire

Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire and part of Cheshire

Staffordshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Northamptonshire, Derbyshire, part of Buckinghamshire, most of Oxfordshire, part of Berkshire

Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, most of Buckinghamshire, part of Oxfordshire, most of Berkshire, Greater London, Surrey, Sussex, Kent

Wales, and most of Cheshire

Gloucestershire, part of Berkshire, Bristol, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Cornwall

The Judicial Branch in the USA

1. Courts in the United States are subdivided into two principal systems: the federal courts, referred to as United States courts, and the state courts . There is the Supreme Court of the United States, the members of which are appointed for life by the president with the Senate approval and federal courts which are created by the Congress. The Supreme Court is composed of nine judges, who are called justices . It is the highest court in the nation. It interprets the laws and reviews them to determine whether they conform to the U.S. Cons­titution. If the majority of justices rule that the law in question violates the Constitution, the law is declared unconstitutional and becomes invalid . This process is known as judicial review. All lower courts follow the rulings of the Supreme Court.

2. Judges of federal courts are appointed for life by the president with the approval of the Senate. These courts are the district courts, tribunals of general original jurisdiction; the courts of appeals, exercising appellate jurisdiction over the district courts. A district court functions in each of the more than 90 federal judicial districts. A court of appeals functions in each of the 11 federal judicial circuits and in the District of Columbia; there is also a more specialized court with nationwide jurisdiction known as the court of appeals for the federal circuit.

3. Federal Courts have the power to rule on both criminal and civil cases. Criminal action under federal jurisdiction includes such cases as treason, destruction of government property, counterfeiting, hijack­ing, and narcotic violations. Civil cases include violations of other people's rights, such as damaging property, violating a contract, or making libelious statements. If found guilty, a person may be required to pay a certain amount of money, called damages, but he or she is never sent to prison. A convicted criminal, on the other hand, may be imprisoned . The Bill of Rights guarantees a trial by jury in all criminal cases. A jury is a group of citizens - usually 12 persons - who make the decision on a case.

4. Each state has an independent system of courts operating under the constitution and laws of the state. The character and names of the courts differ from state to state but as a whole they have general jurisdiction and handle criminal and other cases that do not come under federal jurisdiction.

5. The state court systems include a number of minor courts with limited jurisdiction. These courts dispose of minor offenses and relatively small civil actions. Included in this classification are police and municipal courts in cities and the courts presided over by justices of the peace in rural areas . Between the lower courts and the supreme appellate courts, in a number of states, are intermediate appellate courts. Courts of last resort, the highest appellate tribunals of the states in criminal and civil cases and in law and equity, are generally called supreme courts.

6. In some states, judges are publicly elected, in others they are appointed, by state governors or by special bodies such as judicial councils - though except at the lowest levels only lawyers are eligible for election or appointment. Some judges hold office for fixed periods, but others are installed for life or up to a retiring age ; or there may be provision for 'recall '. Under this arrangement a group of people dissatisfied with a judge may collect signatures on a 'recall' petition, and if the signatures reach the required number the people of the state (or county) vote 'yes' or 'no' to the question whether the impugned judge should be confirmed in office.

The US Supreme Court and Its Procedures

A Term of the Supreme Court begins, by statute, on the first Monday in October. Usually Court sessions continue until late June or early July. The Term is divided between "sittings," when the Justices hear cases and deliver opinions, and intervening recesses , when they consider the business before the Court and write opinions. Sittings and recesses alternate at approximately two-week intervals.

With rare exceptions, each side is allowed 30 minutes argument and generally 22 to 24 cases are argued at one sitting. Since the majority of cases involve the review of a decision of some other court, there is no jury and no witnesses are heard. For each case, the Court has before it a record of prior proceedings and printed briefs containing the arguments of each side.

During the intervening recess period, the Justices study the argued and forthcoming cases and work on their opinions. Each week the Justices must also evaluate more than 110 petitions seeking review of judgments of state and federal courts to determine which cases are to be granted full review with oral arguments by attorneys.

When the Court is sitting, public sessions begin promptly at 10 a.m. and continue until 3 p.m., with a one-hour lunch recess starting at noon. No public sessions are held on Thursdays or Fridays. On Fridays during and preceding argument weeks, the Justices meet to discuss the argued cases and to discuss and vote on petitions for review.

When the Court is in session, the 10 a.m. entrance of the Justices into the Courtroom is announced by the Marshal. Those present, at the sound of the gavel , arise and remain standing until the robed Justices are seated following the traditional chant : "The Honorable , the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. Oyez ! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honorable Court!"

Prior to hearing oral argument, other business of the Court is transacted . On Monday mornings this includes the release of an Order List , a public report of Court actions including the acceptance and rejection of cases. Opinions are typically released on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings and on the third Monday of each sitting, when the Court takes the Bench but no arguments are heard.

The Court maintains this schedule each Term until all cases ready for submission have been heard and decided. In May and June the Court sits only to announce orders and opinions. The Court recesses at the end of June, but the work of the Justices is unceasing . During the summer they continue to analyze new petitions for review, consider motions and applications, and must make preparations for cases scheduled for fall argument.