Court History and Purpose Essay

The court plays a very critical role in American Criminal Justice. Without the development of courts, those who violate the law would face no penalty and would commit crimes and walk free. In this paper I will evaluate and examine the American Criminal court system. I will describe the court and the purpose that it serves as so I will also define the dual court system. I will also describe the role that early legal codes, the common law and the precedent played in the development of courts. The court represents the collective conscience of society, serving as an instrument for Expressing the revulsion people feel for those who commit particularly heinous crimes. Because they are given the task of punishing wrongdoers, courts serve as an agency of social control, determining which behaviors may be acceptable and which deserve severe sanction] (Siegel, Schmalleger, & Worrall, 2011, p. 3). Courts play such a critical role simply because they determine what should happen to those who violate the law. There is a criminal court, and there is a civil court.

Civil courts deal with private party issues, whereas criminal courts try suspected offenders (Siegel, Schmalleger, & Worrall, 2011). In court, cases are handled differently than others. A person who creates a more serious offense will receive more harsh consequences in court as compared to a person who faces a less serious crime. Furthermore, a dual court system separates federal and state courts. The dual court system makes up the judicial branch of Government. The benefit of possessing a dual court system is so that the court system can move, and operate in a timely matter.

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If there was only one level of the court system, many cases would not be heard and the process would not be as smooth as it is now. It is easier to have a balance of court systems than to have one court handling every matter, big or small. If there was a monolithic court system, the effectiveness of this system would be little to none. Having a dual court system makes the process much smoother because each level is able to do their special part to make sure that every case is heard and handled appropriately.

Moreover, early legal codes played a very important role in the development of courts. The first known legal code was the Hammurabi that expressed a strong belief of “an eye for an eye”. In certain situations, this code is still being used today. The Roman law also provides an example of a legal principle which is known as the Twelve Tables. This type of code contained a strong belief of contributive justice. These codes have changed over time and will continue to change. In addition, common law has also contributed greatly to the development of courts.

Common law emerged while legal codes were just beginning. Common law is laws developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals. According to “The Common Law and Civil Law Traditions” (2012), [Common law is generally uncodified. This means that there is no comprehensive compilation of legal rules and statutes. While common law does rely on some scattered statutes, which are legislative decisions, it is largely based on precedent, meaning the judicial decisions that have already been made in similar cases.

These precedents are maintained over time through the records of the courts as well as historically documented in collections of case law known as yearbooks and reports] (Common Law). In conclusion, courts still manage to play a very important role in courts today. Some laws have gotten stricter, but courts are much more effective with each process and each situation they face. The court system is so much more effective today because people know that they will be penalized for their actions. Back then the court system was just being built, but now that the court system is more advanced, it has much more power.

Courts help to protect individuals. “Ensuring that everyone can come before a court, regardless of which side of a dispute they represent, is one of the hallmarks of the American justice system” (Siegel, Schmalleger, & Worrall, 20110.


Siegel, L. J. , Schmalleger, F. , & Worrall, J. L. (2011). Courts and criminal justice in America. (4th ed. ). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson The Common Law and Civil Law Traditions. (2012). Retrieved from http://www. law. berkeley. edu/library/robbins/CommonLawCivilLawTraditions


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