Judicial Function

Judicial Function in the United States

The roles performed by the courts in the political system of the United States. Several judicial functions are prominent. The first and most common is dispute resolution. The courts provide a forum for the presentation of arguments and processes by which disputes may either be settled or adjudicated. This function is not only essential for the parties to the suit but generally allows the government to better manage conflict in the society. Second, the courts perform a socialization function. They attempt to influence behavior of individuals by penalizing unacceptable conduct. This is especially evident with criminal penalties, although it occurs in civil situations as well. While deterrence through threat of sanction is more frequent, the courts may also reinforce proper conduct. Third, courts authoritatively distribute benefits and sanctions. Courts render decisions that actually impose punishments of imprisonment or require one party to pay another party large sums of money. These judgments are fully enforceable through the exercise of governmental power. Finally, courts play a role in the shaping of public policy. This is especially true at the appellate level where the courts are required to render interpretive judgments on issues that arise in the application of law.

See Also

Adjudication (Judicial Function) Civil Law (Judicial Function) Criminal Law (Judicial Function) Dispute Resolution (Judicial Function) Litigation (Judicial Function).

Analysis and Relevance

Insights into the operations of courts are based on an understanding of the functions of courts and the specific processes designed to perform those tasks. Courts generally exist to facilitate dispute resolution. Many disputes are not actually brought to court but rather are resolved by agreement of the disputants. The courts should, as a consequence, be viewed as but one mode of dispute resolution and a mode of last resort at that. The kinds of issues brought to courts may be categorized as either civil or criminal. Civil disputes generally involve private parties and their relationship to one another. Most civil litigants are individuals or businesses, although the government may also be a party in a civil suit. The judicial function in a civil dispute is to establish or adjust the relationship of the parties. The court may also have to redistribute resources among the parties. In a criminal case, on the other hand, the conflict that requires resolu-tion is between society at large and a misbehaving individual. The court then authoritatively determines the outcome by imposing formal sanctions, such as imprisonment.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Judicial Function from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Judicial Function: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Judicial Function. This part provides references, in relation to Judicial Function, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Judicial Function by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Judicial Function and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Judicial Function or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Judicial Function and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Judicial Function. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Judicial Function should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Judicial Function when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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