Unified Court System

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.

See Also

General Jurisdiction Court (Judicial Organization) State Supreme Court (Judicial Organization).

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

  1. Definition of Unified Court System from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Unified Court System: 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 Unified Court System. This part provides references, in relation to Unified Court System, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Unified Court System 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 Unified Court System 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 Unified Court System 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 Unified Court System 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 Unified Court System. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Unified Court System 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 Unified Court System when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

Leave a Comment