U.S Justice System

By Chris Joiner and Connor Leek and Jack Gilligan

History of Justice system

The criminal justice system has been around as long as the colonel days back when citizens were subjected to British law. At the end of the 17th Century, William Penn began to promote reform in the Criminal Justice system and wanted to see changes made. After the American Revolution, the U.S. Constitution was created which guaranteed freedoms and rights that were not there before the revolution even started. Before the United States adopted the Constitution, it was governed by the Articles of Confederation. Under this governing agent, most of the national government’s functions were vested in Congress. The Articles of Confederation were adopted by the Continental Congress on November 15, 1777. This document was the United States first constitution, and was from March 1, 1781, until 1789 when the present day Constitution went into effect. Legislative and executive powers were not separated in this single-chamber legislature. Because there was no national judiciary, this was considered a weakness of the Articles.

British Rule

Criminal justice system back in the colonel days weren't so much on what the British king wanted to happen, it was what the King didn't want to happen. They didn't want people stealing or killing so they set in rules and guidelines so people wouldn't do those things. If people did do the things that the king didn't want to do there were going to be punishments and sometimes those punishments weren't very fair.

Structure of the U.S Justice System

The federal court system has three main levels: district courts (the trial court), circuit courts which are the first level of appeal, and the Supreme Court of the United States, the final level of appeal in the federal system. There are 94 district courts, 13 circuit courts, and one Supreme Court throughout the country.Courts in the federal system work differently in many ways than state courts.

District Courts

The district courts are the general trial courts of the federal court system. Each district court has at least one United States District Judge, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for a life term. District courts handle trials within the federal court system – both civil and criminal. The districts are the same as those for the U.S. Attorneys, and the U.S. Attorney is the primary prosecutor for the federal government in his or her respective area.

Origin of U.S Justice System

The first Chief Justice appointed by George Washington was John Jay who served from September 1789 to June 1795. The five Associate Justices were John Rutledge, William Cushing, James Wilson, John Blair, and James Iredell. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, but it has limited power over the federal courts.


During the colonial period, political power was concentrated in the hands of the governor appointed by the king of England. Because the governors performed executive, legislative, and judicial functions, an elaborate court system was not necessary. The lowest level of the colonial judiciary consisted of local judges called justices of the peace or magistrates. They were appointed by the colony's governor. Then the next level in the system were the county courts, the general trial courts for the colonies. Appeals from all courts were taken to the highest level the governor and his council. Grand juries were also introduced during this period and remain features of the state judicial systems.