skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 77523 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: What the Lower Courts Do - The Work and Role of Courts of Limited Jurisdiction
Author(s): S S Silbey
Date Published: 1979
Page Count: 201
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute of Justice/
Rockville, MD 20849
US Dept of Justice
Washington, DC 20530
Publication Number: FJRP-79/010
Sale Source: National Institute of Justice/
NCJRS paper reproduction
Box 6000, Dept F
Rockville, MD 20849
United States of America
Document: PDF
Type: Statistics
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper provides a description of the courts of limited jurisdiction, a history and criticism of the lower courts, and a review of the functions of the lower courts.
Abstract: Data considered in this paper were available in State court reports collected by the National Center for State Courts. Additional information was obtained from the American Judicature Society, surveys published by the Department of Justice, and from judges attending the National Judicial College in 1979. The data indicate that courts of limited jurisdiction number some 18,000, that they are diverse, and that they carry a large share of the States' trial caseload with considerably reduced resources. It is estimated that they hear 90 percent of the nation's criminal cases. There is a great range of organizational patterns and personnel qualifications. General jurisdiction courts hear a significantly greater proportion of civil cases, a principal distinction between the caseloads of the two courts. From their inception in the 14th century, the lower courts were designed to provide rapid, localized justice for less serious offenses and matters. Criticisms which have been levied against the lower courts have focused on their informality, lack of due process, and lack of uniformity. However, limited jurisdiction courts can function as a major resource for community-based dispute resolution. Moreover, the movement toward negotiated settlements, mediation, and social service treatment does not necessarily deny the need for courts as umbrella institutions for dispute resolution. Issues to be addressed in future research include creating access to resolution mechanisms and formalizing the alternative styles and procedures of a variety of kinds of adjudication within a judicial framework. Appendixes, 37 tables, and 158 references are provided.
Index Term(s): Court of limited jurisdiction; Court statistics; Court system; State-by-state analyses; Studies
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.