An Overview of the Courts

Hello, I hope everything is well since the last time I posted. Things are staying busy as there are always different things going on that I can help with and learn from whether it is simply running papers to different offices, filing judges notes, pulling court cases, writing memos, completing orders, or simply watching trials, the opportunities for education are endless.Although I am not an employee of the court with a specific set of job responsibilities, my position as an intern is enviable in that I am allowed to interact with all the court departments and their members on a regular basis, allowing me not only to bridge gaps of communication that naturally occur between various departments, but also allowing me an experience and perspective that would otherwise be  impossible would I have been confined to a more defined role. Especially for someone who does not have previous experience or knowledge of the court processes, being an intern is provides some of the most diverse work experiences of any position in the court, one through which I am able to learn about court procedure, protocol, and politics, seeing not only how the court operates in administering and overseeing the law but how it and its members are instrumental in ensuring something far more important and far more challenging; the execution of  justice.

Now, in order to describe what a typical day is like in court, in the next blog post I must first describe what the 22nd Circuit Court does, what it does not do and how it is departmentally administered.  I hope you will indulge me in bearing with me through this little spiel about our court system. While not especially exciting it provides an excellent overview to understanding the overall objectives and responsibilities are of the various courts and their employees, what duties they perform, and how their individual responsibilities each help to support the rule of law in the United States. So without further commentary, here is a brief summary of the Judicial System and the 22nd Second Circuit Court.

The court opens up at 8:00 a.m. monday through Friday, and, with the exception of holidays and furlough days, maintains this schedule all year. The current court-house, located on 101 E. Huron Street is a Modern looking (and notice I said “looking”) building that runs about a half a city block and is the home of the 22nd Circuit Court of the County of Washtenaw, in the City of Ann Arbor.

Now,Circuit Courts are “the third tier” of our court system, handling all Civil cases in the amount of 25,000 dollars or more and all criminal cases where there has been a felony charge, a misdemeanour which incarceration is a penalty  and all domestic cases such as divorces, and custody disputes. Underneath the circuit court are the district courts, and under the auspices of the district courts are the traffic and municipal courts (note: not all municipalities have them). Above the Circuit Courts is the Court of Appeals. his court hears, well, appeals to the verdicts rendered by the lower courts. They are responsible for either affirming or rejecting a lower courts decision. Should an individual or entity appeal the decision of the Court of Appeals, the case goes before the Michigan Supreme Court. Composed of 9 justices, the Supreme Court hears cases from the appellate courts and either affirms or strikes down the lower court’s rulings.It is the court of last resort pertaining (excluding the U.S. Supreme Court) and has the last say with regard to the interpretation of Michigan laws.

While there are also federal courts, it would be far too lengthy to go into detail as to their role in our legal system. It is sufficient to say that while similar in organisation to state courts, their role is the interpretation of Federal law, as well as appeals issuing up from state courts. There role is to serve as the evaluators as to the constitutionality of  statutes and rulings of Federal, and occasionally, state law.

Now the question remains, How are these courts run? Does a judge just sit on a bench and randomly pick people that they would like to hear? No of course not. To support the interpretation of law, each court has various administrative departments whose job is to support the activities of the judiciary. Included in these administrative divisions at the 22nd Circuit Court are: Circuit Court Services, (handles all the processing and filling of motions, as well as orders related to circuit court cases)-Probate Court Services (similarly provides support like CCS but to the Probate Court)- Central Assignment (performs all the administrative functions of the collective courts including scheduling/purchasing/security/etc.), Probation(self-explanatory), and the Friend of the Court(a government agency that supports the judiciary in investigating, recommending, and mediating cases.)

In addition, the court also houses the Washtenaw County Bar association (a local chapter of the legal fields professional governing body) and Legal Services, a resource available to the public that  provides individuals direction, supplies them with the appropriate court forms.

While this is simply a summary, it highlights the majority of administrative departments that help the court run smoothly or as smoothly as one could expect. With thousands of thousands of documents that are handled and processed each day, the ability and dedication of support staff is exceptional, and is something that without, would crippling to the court. They are truly exceptional and dedicated individuals, who collaboratively with the judiciary in order to execute and administer the laws of the United States. Whether in the 22nd Circuit Court, a traffic court, or the Michigan Supreme Court, the aforementioned departments and or their equivalents are essential to the courts operation. Simply put they are unexpendable.

I hope this helps a bit to understand a bit of the structure of the courts and how they actually operate. My next post will be a summary of the judiciary’s responsibilities and my role in helping to support such responsibilities. Please feel free to comment or ask any questions: I would love to read and perhaps answer them. Until next time, cheers!

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One response to “An Overview of the Courts

  1. That was an interesting overview of the court system. I’m a little jealous of your internship in that you interact with people from different offices and departments and have learned a lot about how the courts work. At my internship I usually interact with only one person so I don’t get to learn as much about how museums work as I would like to. The variety of tasks you perform sounds like you’ll have an impressive portfolio when your internship is done.

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