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Robert Peel

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Robert Peel

This paper will identifies and describes the distinguishing features and characteristics of major court systems ranging from state level superior court and federal district courts up through the U.S. Supreme Court. The Oklahoma Court System will used throughout this paper.

The Oklahoma Court System is made up of the Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, the Court of Civil Appeals, and 77 District Courts. The Administrative Office of the Courts provides administrative services for the Court System.

Unlike most states, Oklahoma has two courts of last resort. The Supreme Court determines all issues of a civil nature, and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decides all criminal matters. Members of these courts, and of the Court of Civil Appeals, are appointed by the governor from a list of three names submitted by the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission.

The Supreme Court

The Courtroom, housed in the State Capitol, belongs to the people of Oklahoma, as do all courtrooms in this State. All sessions conducted in the Courtroom are open to the public. Citizens are welcome, and they are urged to attend these sessions. The first five Justices initially presided over all civil and criminal cases, but as the population began to grow and the court docket lengthened, it became clear with the growth a five-judge court would not be able to handle all the cases. Four other Justices were appointed in 1917. In 1918, the Court of Criminal Appeals was created and three judges were appointed to preside over all criminal matters. (The Court of Criminal Appeals now consists of five judges.)

The Oklahoma Appellate Courts

Unlike most states, Oklahoma has two courts of last resort. The Supreme Court determines all issues of a civil nature, and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decides all criminal matters. Members of these courts, and of the Court of Civil Appeals, are appointed by the governor from a list of three names submitted by the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission.

In making its decisions, the Oklahoma Supreme Court interprets both the State and Federal Constitutions. If the question presented is one purely of state law, the Oklahoma Supreme Court is the final arbiter. An opinion of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, based on the Oklahoma Constitution, affording greater rights than the United States Supreme Court may not overturn those preserved by the United States Constitution. The Oklahoma Supreme Court decides no criminal cases. Criminal cases fall within the exclusive appellate jurisdiction of the Court of Criminal Appeals. In recent years, the backlog of the Court of Criminal Appeals has been virtually extinguished, guaranteeing both the State and individual litigants have a speedy resolution of appellate issues relating to crimes committed in Oklahoma. If a conflict arises over the jurisdiction of the two courts --- Supreme Court or Court of Criminal Appeals --- the Supreme Court determines which court has jurisdiction. Its determination is final and not subject to review.

The Court of Civil Appeals is responsible for the majority of appellate decisions. The Supreme Court may release these opinions for publication either by the Court of Civil Appeals or. When the Supreme Court releases the opinions for publication, they have presidential value. The Court of Civil Appeals is made up of four divisions, each composed of three Judges. Two divisions of the Court of Civil Appeals are located in Oklahoma City and two are housed in Tulsa.

Bringing a case before the Appellate Courts

In Oklahoma, all litigants are entitled to one appeal as a matter of right. Appeals to the Court of Criminal Appeals come directly from the District Court. All appeals in civil cases are made to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Appeal may be made to the Supreme Court from the District Court, Workers' Compensation Court, Court of Tax Review, and state agencies such as the Department of Public Safety, Oklahoma Tax Commission, Oklahoma Corporation Commission and the Department of Human Services. Many of these appeals are directed by the Supreme Court to one of four divisions of the Court of Civil Appeals. Most cases reviewed in the Supreme Court are from the Court of Civil Appeals. These cases come before the Supreme Court on petitions for certiorari.

When new first impression issues, or important issues of law, or matters of public interest are at stake, the Supreme Court may retain a case directly from the trial court. In addition to appeals from a trial, issues come to the Supreme Court within its general superintending control over all inferior courts, agencies, commissions and boards created by law, with the exception of the Court on the Judiciary and the Senate sitting as a Court of Impeachment.

Disposition

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