What Are the Three Levels of State Courts in the United States?

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The three levels of state courts in the Unites States are the trial level, the intermediate appellate level and the high appellate level. In some states, the higher trial court is known as the general jurisdiction or the superior court, while the lower level of the trial court is referred to as the limited jurisdiction or the municipal court.

Most legal cases are filed at the state court level rather than at the federal court level because state courts have been authorized to deal with all types of cases that involve any citizen in that particular state. These cases include personal injury, criminal law matters, probate and estate planning matters, family law cases and traffic violations. However, state courts have no power to handle certain types of cases, such as those involving copyrights, bankruptcy, violation of the federal criminal law and immigration. These cases are handled by the federal courts.

The structure of state courts varies from state to state, with each state operating on a number of state court tiers. The tiers are differentiated by the amount of money at stake or the type of case filed. Although these state court levels differ from state to state, the minimum levels should be three in all states.