Some Differences in the US Judicial System
The U.S. judicial system can be characterized by more wide usage trial by jury: more jury trials are conducted in the United States each year than in any other country in the world. Jury practices differ somewhat between the state and federal courts and even among state courts.It’s interesting, that in the other countries jury trials are conducted in serious criminal cases and in the USA uses jury trials for less serious criminal cases (misdemeanors), civil cases, and, in some states, even in cases involving municipal ordinance violations.
The main difference is the number of jurors in different courts. We got used to juries consisted of 12 persons, and this is still the number used for most serious criminal cases. But 16 states use smaller juries of six, seven, or eight people to try less serious criminal cases, and 17 states and the federal courts use smaller juries to try civil cases. States also differ on whether a jury’s verdict must be unanimous. Two states permit nonunanimous verdicts in criminal trials, and 16 states permit nonunanimous verdicts in civil cases.
We can observe the growing differences in practice concerning whether people who have been convicted of a crime are eligible to serve; some states have a permanent disqualification for any criminal conviction, others permit people to serve as jurors after some time has passed (10 to 20 years, for example), and others have no restrictions related to criminal background at all.
In the USA there are 94 federal district courts with 678 judges and more than 3,000 state courts and more than 16,000 state court judges.