The Role of the Appellate Court System in the USA

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After the completion of the trial process, defendants in the United States have the right to appeal to state and federal courts of appeals. The appellate court system in the United States should be discussed as part of the nation’s dual court system that includes both federal courts and separate state courts. In this context, much attention should be paid to the role of the appellate courts in re-examining outcomes and decisions made in trial courts.

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Role of Appellate Courts in Discussing Cases of Violating the U.S. Constitution

The percentage of appeals in which defendants note the violation of the Constitution is significant, and appellate courts take a specific position regarding such cases. Constitutional criminal issues are discussed according to a certain scheme. While making a decision, judges intend to prove that the error was harmful, and the violation of a defendant’s fundamental constitutional right was observed (Born & Salas, 2012, p. 2). In addition, the appellate court determines whether the discussed constitutional violation could prevent a defendant from conducting a fair trial. Thus, in cases when a defendant claims the violation of his constitutional rights, the appellate court decides whether the error is harmful (Epstein, Landes, & Posner, 2012). In situations, when federal constitutional questions are discussed, only the U.S. Supreme Court can decide on issues regarding the U.S. Constitution.

Similarities in State and Federal Court Systems

The effective work of the appellate court system in the United States depends on its efficient structure.

Thus, the federal appellate system is presented by the U.S. circuit courts of appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court as the court of last resort. If a person is not satisfied with the trial procedure in the U.S. District Court and the associated outcome, he can appeal to the U.S. circuit courts of appeals (Editorial Board, 2014; Ursin, 2014, p. 384). These courts correct any errors in decisions and re-examine rules and principles applied in the trial court. The last resort is the discussion of the case in the U.S. Supreme Court that examines the limited number of cases each year and focuses on interpreting the U.S. Constitution. The state court system reflects the federal one, and intermediate appellate courts and a state supreme court form the appellate system in the concrete state and provide a defendant with an opportunity to have his case re-examined. If the decision of the intermediate appellate court is controversial, a person can appeal to a state supreme court, and then to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Role of the U.S. Supreme Court in Federal and State Court Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court is the most important element in the appellate court system of the United States. The most difficult cases and controversial decisions made in state or federal trial courts are discussed in the U.S. Supreme Court (Harvey & Woodruff, 2013). When judges examine the cases, they pay much attention to determining errors in law application and procedures and to the issue of violating constitutional rights. Moreover, judges interpret the language of earlier decisions known as precedents that can be applied to the current case (Hack, 2012, p. 67). For instance, a judge can decide on the reasonableness of a decision and further appellation focusing on precedents that are used to discuss similar legal questions according to previously developed doctrines and rules.

Thus, the U.S. appellate court system is important to protect defendants’ rights and correct errors made in courts. In this system, the U.S. Supreme Court plays the main role because it guarantees the effective work of both federal and state court systems. As a result, the appellate system guarantees both stability and the regular revision of the outdated legal doctrines.


Born, G., & Salas, C. (2012). The United States Supreme Court and class arbitration: A tragedy of errors. The Journal of Dispute Resolution, 21(1), 1-12.

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Editorial Board. (2014). Introduction to criminal justice. Pensacola, FL: Words of Wisdom, LLC.

Epstein, L., Landes, W. M., & Posner, R. A. (2012). Are even unanimous decisions in the United States Supreme Court ideological? Northwestern University Law Review, 106(1), 699-720.

Hack, J. S. (2012). When precedent proves questionable: a structural analysis of overturning precedent on the US Supreme Court. International Journal of Public Law and Policy, 2(1), 66-82.

Harvey, A., & Woodruff, M. J. (2013). Confirmation bias in the United States Supreme Court judicial database. Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, 29(2), 414-460.

Ursin, E. (2014). California Supreme Court and judicial lawmaking: The jurisprudence of the California Supreme Court. California Legal History, 9(1), 383-395.

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Premium Papers. (2022, April 16). The Role of the Appellate Court System in the USA. Retrieved from


Premium Papers. (2022, April 16). The Role of the Appellate Court System in the USA.

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"The Role of the Appellate Court System in the USA." Premium Papers, 16 Apr. 2022,


Premium Papers. (2022) 'The Role of the Appellate Court System in the USA'. 16 April.


Premium Papers. 2022. "The Role of the Appellate Court System in the USA." April 16, 2022.

1. Premium Papers. "The Role of the Appellate Court System in the USA." April 16, 2022.


Premium Papers. "The Role of the Appellate Court System in the USA." April 16, 2022.