Courts play an integral part in the justice system forming a legal framework to dispense justice. The court is a unit of the judiciary that is established by the constitution with the powers to preside over cases, legal contentions, and matters of dispute that individuals and parties present to it. They determine and prescribe punishment to the individuals who violate laws. Private parties, government officials, and businesses bring the disputes that arise between them to the courts for hearing in a neutral forum. The courts have four main purposes: they offer protection to people, ensure that individuals uphold the law, reinforce social norms, and resolve contentious matters. The court system of the United States bears a close resemblance with that of Britain. However, the court system of United States borrowed some aspects from that of Britain. An example is a tenet that a person is innocent until proven guilty. The doctrine allows the accused individuals to present their case in a court of law and defend themselves against their accusers.
The United States has a dual court system. This judicial system is made up of state-level and federal-level legal systems. The dual court system creates a distinct separation between the state courts and federal courts. It has an advantage because it is analogous to the system that constitutionally distributes powers between the federal and the states governments and is called federalism. The federal government has the responsibility of making laws in the U.S. However; federalism confers the states the authority to make laws that apply only to the individual states. The founders of the American Constitution devised this system in their bid to separate powers (Siegel et al., 2011). The system provides checks on the federal government to prevent tyranny or abuse of power.
The origin of the courts dates back to the legal codes. The best example of the ancient law codes is the code of Hammurabi and the Law of Twelve Tablets. The codes were based on the ethical and religious systems of the societies of those times and enforced the social and ethical mandates. The codes advanced retaliation as the main redress for an aggressed person. From the 15th to 18th century, there were movements in some European countries that aimed at compiling numerous customs and laws that led to provincial compilations. The Scandinavian countries adopted the first national code in the 18th century (Charpin & Todd, 2010).
The common law appeared when legal codes were at the early stages of their development. The common law facilitated the regular clarification, explanation, and modification of laws. The common law owes its existence to Henry II, who designed a system where judges could resolve disputes based on their perception of the custom. Laws were a creation of the judges since a democratic process of making laws was non-existent at that time. Judges embarked on writing down their decisions and shared the decisions with other judges. They began to make rulings based on these findings, and this became a common law (Siegel et al., 2011). The contemporary court systems record laws and judgments and oblige the courts under their jurisdiction to comply. A significant development in the present court system is the court of appeal and the supreme courts, which offer a more elaborate interpretation of the law and have the authority to revoke the decisions of the smaller courts.
The courts are significant to the system of criminal justice for two primary reasons: oversight and adjudication. These reasons facilitate an active justice system and protect public safety. The courts arbitrate over disputes and determine the party that is guilty and the one that is innocent. Their power of adjudication imparts meaning to police arrests. They emphasize the legitimate use of force and offer protection against the misuse of legislative authority (Hoffer et al., 2007). Apart from adjudication, the courts also undertake an oversight role. The courts of a higher jurisdiction ensure that the courts of a lower jurisdiction observe the correct application of the law. They preside over the entire system of criminal justice. They monitor the operation of criminal justice officials.
In conclusion, the courts have undergone a significant development from the ancient law codes to the present common law. The system of administering punishment to the offenders has also evolved over time from the “eye-to-eye” system to an elaborate procedure contained in a democratically formed constitution. The justice system has also developed from the administration of punishment on the basis of speculation to a rigorous process of determining one’s culpability on the basis of “innocent until proved guilty” principle. The courts play an integral role in the general public’s life. They provide a forum for aggressed individuals and groups to seek legal justice. It ensures checks and balances for the legislative and executive arms to protect the citizens’ rights and prevent the branches from abusing power. The courts successively reinforce the constitutional values.
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