Nolo's Plain-English Law Dictionary
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- Any official tribunal presided over by a judge or judges in which legal issues and claims are heard and determined. In the United States, there are essentially two systems: federal courts and state courts. The basic federal court system has jurisdiction over cases involving federal statutes, constitutional questions, actions between citizens of different states, and certain other types of cases. There are also special federal courts such as bankruptcy and tax courts. Each state has local trial courts, which include courts for misdemeanors, smaller demand civil actions (called municipal, city, justice, or some other designation), and then superior or district courts to hear felonies, estates, divorces, and major lawsuits. Some states have speciality courts such as family, surrogate, and domestic relations. Small claims courts are an adjunct of the lowest courts handling lesser disputes.