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The Trial Courts of California

It is important to have some clear understanding of the current legal framework before contemplating radically changing California’s trial court system. Nevertheless, any brief explanation of such a complex undertaking would inevitably be somewhat oversimplified. Even so, a common factual basis from which to analyze the issue of unification is included here.

The Jurisdictional Divisions Between Trial Courts

The California Constitution places the state judiciary in the Supreme Court of California, the courts of appeal, and three levels of the superior, municipal, and judicial tribunals. Superior courts are general jurisdiction trial courts. We hear civil suits when the contentious sum reaches 15,000$, domestic partnerships, and jury problems. Superior courts handle criminal charges and juvenile cases in police divisions.

Municipal and criminal courts use the same powers for all practical purposes. Once the amount of controversy is $15,000 or/ and less, including small claims cases, they are empowered to hear civil suits. Municipal and appellate courts treat misdemeanors, preliminary felony hearings, and traffic cases (both misdemeanors and offenses) on the criminal side.

That county of California must set up a superior court. Counties must be split into districts for municipal and court establishment purposes. Districts with a population of over 40,000 must have a municipal court. No city could be divided into more than one division of the tribunal.

The Overall System of Administration

The Judicial Council is the California judicial system’s pinnacle in principle.

The Council includes the Chief Justice and another Supreme Court Justice, 3 Appeal Court Justices, 5 Superior Court Court Judges, 3 Municipal Court Judges, 2 Justice Court Judges, 4 State Bar Members, and 1 member of each Legislature House.

The role of the Council is to improve the administration of justice by monitoring judicial affairs, making recommendations, carrying out demonstration projects and adapting the regulations of the court. The Administrative Office of the Courts shall have the staff of the Judicial Council to assist with its work.

The Judicial Council, in addition, exercises very little administrative control over the trial court, which essentially operate as autonomous, locally based units. The main task of the Judicial Council is to provide central planning and analysis in relation to the courts of the jury.

What Is Considered to Be a Court Unification?

The underlying principle of the restructuring of the trial court is that these various, decentralized and conflicting providers of judicial services should be replaced by a framework “where the courts are structured and operated in such a way as to provide a consistent administration of justice throughout the state as nearly as possible.” A basic principle of a consolidated trial court system is a greater degree of centralized administration. State trial courts will operate under similar sets of guidelines, laws and working conditions whenever possible.

There are different mechanisms and models to developing a unified court system. A number of key indicators for determining the extent to which a system is consolidated include the degree to which:

  • the structure of a trial court has been generalized;
  • the judicial authority was centralized;
  • the administration of the court has been centralized;
  • the budgeting has been centralized; and
  • the government has accepted the funding of the courts.

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