Courts

The court system refers to all of the state and federal judicial bodies that hear cases related to criminal offenses and the criminal justice professionals who attempt to convict or defend individuals appearing before these judicial bodies. In other words, court officers either work for the court or attempt to defend an individual in court. Court officers may work as bailiffs, defense attorneys, judges, prosecutors, or in any of a number of other positions typically found in a state’s court of criminal appeals, a state’s circuit courts, a state’s Supreme Court, U.S. appellate courts, U.S. district courts, U.S. Supreme Court, or in any other court.


Court officers may discuss legal issues with their clients or determine if there is probable cause to file criminal charges. In addition, they may file appeals, criminal charges, or court documents. They can identify illegal law enforcement activities in violation of an individual’s rights, interview witnesses, present evidence to juries, provide legal advice to clients, question experts and witnesses prior to testifying before the court, research laws and regulations relating to a specific criminal offense, and research decisions of other courts so those decisions can be used as precedent. Court officers also can sentence criminals convicted of a crime and carry out a variety of other tasks. It is important to note, however, that a court officer only can perform these tasks in the area (district, state, region, etc.) in which he or she has jurisdiction or legal authority to work. For example, a state prosecutor working for the state of Massachusetts may be able to file criminal charges for an offense that occurred in Massachusetts, but he or she cannot file charges for an offense that occurred in New Hampshire or any other state except Massachusetts.

In addition, a court officer only can perform these tasks within the scope of his or her authority and only in certain cases, because the authority of each court officer is limited. A court officer may collaborate with other court officers, state and local law enforcement officers, federal law enforcement officers, forensic teams, and other individuals to apprehend and convict the criminals they are pursuing. In other words, a court officer may have the authority to carry out a number of different tasks in a specific case, but he or she will not have the authority to perform every task or take every case. For example, an appellate court judge may be able to hear a case that a district court judge has already heard if the district court’s decision is appealed. An appellate court judge, however, cannot hear a case not yet heard by any court because the case falls under a different court’s case jurisdiction.