Many Kinds of American Courts, from Life in the USA: The Complete Guide for Immigrants and Americans

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Life in the USA
Government and Law
Lawyers and Litigation

Many Kinds of Courts
The United States has a number of court systems that operate on a parallel basis.

Federal Courts deal with cases involving federal laws and regulations: civil rights, social security, taxes, interstate commerce, securities regulation, international trade, patents and copyrights, bankruptcy, and disputes between states.

State Courts deal with most criminal actions, family law, property law, most contract issues not involving bankruptcy, the regulations of professions and professional malpractice, personal injury law, most aspects of business law, inheritance and wills, and questions dealing with motor vehicle licensing and operation.

Within the state court systems, states, counties and municipalities may have courts that specialize in certain areas of the law. Some examples include landlord-tenant court, family court (to resolve issues of divorce and child support), domestic violence court, drug court, juvenile court, tax court, mental health court, homeless court, traffic court, and veterans court.

Some communities maintain “small claims” courts specifically designed to allow people to make claims for small money amounts without having to use a lawyer or dealing with complicated paperwork. Most small claims courts will not deal with cases involving more than a maximum amount of money, typically $15,000. These usually involve either the collection of debts or cases involving disputes between landlords and tenants.



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