Maintaining Order – The judicial system in Connecticut exists to uphold the laws of the state. Our courts help to maintain order in our society by:
- determining the guilt or innocence of persons accused of breaking the law;
- resolving disputes involving civil or personal rights;
- interpreting constitutional provisions of laws enacted by the legislature and deciding what is to be the law of the state when none exists for certain situations. The court decision then becomes a precedent to be applied in like situations unless later overruled or modified by the Supreme Court or the General Assembly; and,
- determining whether a law violates the Constitution of either the State of Connecticut or the United States.
Separation of Powers – Under our constitution, the courts are one of three branches of government:
- The Legislative Branch (the Senate and House of Representatives) is responsible for creating new laws.
- The Executive Branch (the Governor and executive branch agencies) is responsible for enforcing them.
- The Judicial Branch (the courts) is responsible for interpreting and upholding our laws.
Relationship of Connecticut Courts to Federal Courts
In Connecticut, as throughout the United States, there are two judicial systems. One is the state system, established under the authority of the state constitution; the other is the federal system, established under the United States Constitution. Connecticut courts are courts of general jurisdiction. These courts handle most criminal matters and a variety of civil matters, including contracts, personal injury cases, dissolution of marriage and other legal controversies. In some instances, decisions of state courts may be appealed to the United States Supreme Court if a question of federal constitutional law arises.
Federal courts have jurisdiction over matters involving federal law, and over the following matters: cases brought by the United States, cases between two states or the citizens of two different states, cases between a state and a foreign state or its citizens, admiralty and maritime cases, and cases affecting ambassadors and other diplomatic personnel.