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A court is any official tribunal presided over by one or several judges in which legal issues and claims are heard and determined. The U.S. system is composed of federal courts and state courts. Article III, Section I of the U.S. Constitution establishes the U.S. Supreme Court as the highest court of the land. The Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction over almost any case involving a constitutional or federal issue. The Supreme Court also has original jurisdiction over cases between two or more states and involving ambassadors and other public ministers.

Article III of the U.S. Constitution gives federal courts jurisdiction over nine types of cases and controversies: all cases involving federal statutes, constitutional questions, actions between citizens of different states, and other types of cases such as admiralty cases and cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls. Special federal courts in tax and bankruptcy also exist. Within each district, federal courts are divided between district courts, bankruptcy courts, and courts of appeals. There is at least one district court in each state and a U.S. bankruptcy court as a unit of one district court in each district.

States have jurisdiction for all other cases. Each state usually has trial courts and superior courts. Some states have specialty courts such as family, housing, and domestic relations.

[Last updated in June of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]