Trial courts are any courts that hear a case first, referred to as courts of original jurisdiction. A trial court makes both findings of fact and law through a full trial expounding the evidence of the case. The findings of law may be appealed to a higher court that has the power of review. In contrast to trial courts, an appellate court only reviews the decisions made by the trial court, typically only covers questions of law, and is limited to certain issues, not a full rehearing of the case. Both federal and state governments have designated trial courts that typically hear cases first, except for limited areas of jurisdiction that only a higher court or administrative court can hear.
A trial court of general jurisdiction may hear any civil or criminal case that is not already exclusively within the jurisdiction of another court. Examples include the United States district courts on the federal level and state-level trial courts such as the New York Supreme Courts and the California Superior Courts. A trial court of limited jurisdiction may only hear specific kinds of cases based on subject matter, amount in controversy, statutory grant, or administrative matters.
[Last updated in May of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]