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The U S Justice System: How Does It Compare to other Nations?

The U S Justice System: How Does It Compare to other Nations?

Highlights: The U S Judicial System

  • The United States judicial system is based on the English common law tradition. As a federated republic, the country has a federal judicial system as well as 50 state judicial systems, each of which is independent and unique. There are also judicial systems serving other government entities, such as the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.).
  • At the federal level, the country is divided in 12 circuits and 94 federal judicial districts. Each circuit has a federal court of appeals and at least one district court.
  • There are around 16,300 courts and just over 29,000 judges at the state level, with most states having between 2 and 6 judges per 100 thousand inhabitants.
  • Aggregate figures (considering both the state and federal levels) indicate there are approximately 11 judges, 13 prosecutors, and 297 police officers per 100 thousand inhabitants.
  • An estimated 98% of litigation takes place at the state level. State courts handle legal issues such as divorce, child custody and support, real estate and property, contracts, personal injury complaints, validation of wills, and most criminal matters.
  • In 2001, state courts handled 92 million cases, the highest number registered in the past 8 years due in large part to an increase in traffic disputes and family violence cases.
  • In June 2002, there were 702 persons incarcerated per 100 thousand inhabitants. According to the organization Sentencing Project, this is the highest rate of incarcerated persons per inhabitant worldwide.

Source: Center for Study of Justice in the Americas (2003).

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