Pursuant to the laws of Connecticut, the judicial powers of the state are vested in the Supreme Court, the intermediate appellate court, the superior court and other limited jurisdiction tribunals. As in the other parts of the country, in Connecticut too the federal and the state judicial networks carry parallel operations that are independent of each other. The state courts are established under the Connecticut Constitution while the federal tribunals, of which there are two, are governed by the US Constitution.
The difference between the federal and state judicial system
The authority of the tribunals working within the federal judicial network and those that are part of the state judiciary differs vastly. For instance, most state courts have general or limited jurisdiction and will handle cases, whether criminal or civil, that occur within the geographical territory of Connecticut. Typically, these tribunals will here matters pertaining to family relations, probate civil disputes, taxation, juvenile delinquency, personal injury and criminal infractions.
On the other hand, federal courts handle cases involving US Laws, disputes between two states or between citizens of two states, cases involving a foreign state and its citizens, maritime matters and litigations that affect diplomats and ambassadors. Apart from this, federal tribunals will also handle the processing of criminal who have committed offenses across many states.
The Courts of Connecticut
The Supreme Court: In the state of Connecticut, the Supreme Court is at the head of the judicial network. It comprises of 7 justices who select the Chief Justice from among themselves, usually the senior most justice gets this position. The apex tribunal hears appeals from the lower courts, some that have directly been brought up from the Superior Courts and others in which the Supreme Court allows a plea against a judgment given by the Court of Appeals; the latter is rare.
In some cases, particularly those that involve capital punishment and the interpretation of Connecticut Statutes, the Supreme Court has mandatory jurisdiction; this means that these matters go from the Superior Court to the Apex judicial entity directly. The justices of the Supreme Court sit in panels of 5 or en banc- that is all 7 justices together to decide on a case.
The Appellate Court: Like the Supreme Court, the Intermediate Court of Appeals is a judicial entity that only accepts pleas against judgments delivered by lower tribunals. In all, there are 9 judges who handle the affairs of the Court of Appeals and a Chief Judge is chosen from among them. The appellate court decides on whether any judicial errors were committed when a case was tried by the Superior Court.
The Superior Courts: These are the tribunals that handle the bulk of all civil and criminal matters brought before the judiciary in CT. Except for matters involving probate disputes, Superior Courts with their general jurisdiction are authorized to hear all other cases. Probate Courts are lower in the judicial hierarchy, so the Superior Courts also handle appeals from these tribunals.
The 8 counties of Connecticut are divided into 20 geographical justice areas and 13 judicial districts. The more serious civil and criminal matters are tried at the district level while cases involving minor civil disputes, misdemeanors and the issue of CT arrest warrants are handled at the geographic area level. The Superior Court can further be bifurcated into 4 trial divisions; civil, criminal; family and housing.