Unified Court System in the United States
A court system organized around sets of one or two consolidated trial courts. The Unified Court System (Judicial Organization) has certain structural and administrative characteristics and is an approach designed to reduce the historical fragmentation of state courts. This fragmentation was a consequence of the nineteenth century practice of creating courts with narrow jurisdiction on an ad hoc basis. The state government was partially responsible for funding these courts, but often the principal control unit was located at the county or municipal level. The existence of a number of independent courts with blurred and overlapping jurisdictional lines created a fragmented condition. The legal profession, under the lead of Roscoe Pound, sought to counter this fragmentation with a movement for unification. A number of organizations, most notably the American Judicature Society, have continued to urge unification since the early 1900s. The unification proposals generally focus on two elements. The first is the consolidation of trial courts into a single set of state courts. The second involves centralization of court funding and management at the state level. Over the years, unification has taken place in most state judicial systems.
Analysis and Relevance
The concept of the Unified Court System (U.S.) rests on some key propositions. The first is that a fragmented system is highly inefficient. The second relates to control; unification advocates contend that courts are ineffective when control is divided between the state and local levels. A third element is that courts ought to be administered by professionals. While the merits of these arguments seem compelling, opposition to such reform existed because it disturbed the status quo and the groups who were in power under the fragmented system. There was also resistance to loss of control at the local level. Many argued that control over trial courts was more appropriately located at the local level rather than the state level. Currently, there is no real uniformity in the structure of state courts, but the unified system has become the most frequently used model.
Notes and References
- Definition of Unified Court System from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California