court system in the United States, judicial branches of the federal and state governments charged with the application and interpretation of the law. The U.S. court system is divided into two administratively separate systems, the federal and the state, each of which is independent of the executive and legislative branches of government. Such a dual court system is a heritage of the colonial period. By the time the U.S. Constitution had first mandated (1789) the establishment of a federal judiciary, each of the original Thirteen Colonies already had its own comprehensive court system based on the English model. Thus, the two systems grew side by side and came to exercise exclusive jurisdiction in some areas and overlapping, or concurrent, jurisdiction in others.
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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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