Substantive Law, Procedural Law & the U.S. Judicial System

Substantive Law, Procedural Law & the U.S. Judicial System

In this lesson, you’re expected to learn about:
– the difference between substantive and procedural law
– the basics of how the judicial system works in the U.S.
– alternative dispute resolution
What is Substantive Law?

Substantive law is the set of laws that creates, defines, and regulates rights and obligations of people within the framework of a single subject, such as contracts, torts*, crimes, or property.

It may be codified in statutes passed by a legislature (Civil law system) or exists through precedents established in previous legal cases (Common law system).

Tort: a wrongful act or an infringement of a right (other than under contract) leading to legal liability.
What is Procedural Law?

Procedural law is the set of operating rules for enforcing substantive law in a court of law, in order to obtain substantive rights or determine substantive obligations.

The rules determine what happens in a criminal lawsuit, as well as civil and administrative proceedings, and are designed to ensure a fair practice and consistent application of due process to all cases that come before a court.

In a legal system, procedural rules are promulgated by the judiciary, adopted after hearings, and published in a code. Procedural law varies from court to court.

Procedural vs. Substantive Law
Enlarged version:
[Optional] Procedural Law vs. Substantive Law
Read this article to see the differences between the two:
The US court system
There are two main court systems in the US:  the Federal and the various State systems.

In reference to the structure, the hierarchy of the Federal and State courts are comparable. Therefore, by way of example, we will look at the Federal court system.

1) Federal System

• District Courts: these are trial courts and there are 94 district courts with 677 judges altogether. In each of the 50 states, there is at least one federal district court.

• Courts of Appeals: these are circuit courts for each of the districts. An appeal from district court’s decision is heard by the appeals courts. There are 13 courts of appeals across the country: 12 circuit courts of appeals and the US Court of Appeals for the federal circuit, a specialized court based in Washington D.C.

• US Supreme Court: appeals from circuit court’s judgment may be heard by the Supreme Court. In most situations, the Supreme Court decides discretionarily whether to hear an appeal – in this case, the agreement of four of the nine Justices from the Supreme Court is necessary.

In a few cases, a party has the absolute right of appeal – usually the cases involve federal questions, e.g. about the US Constitution and/or a federal statute. According to the US Courts official data, the US Supreme Court hears about 100 to 150 appeals of the more than 7,000 cases it is asked to review every year.

NOTE: the names of the courts may change according to the state and/or circuit where it is located.
Apart from the two main court systems in the US, there are other types of courts such as:

• courts of federal and state administrative agencies;

• specialized courts, e.g. federal bankruptcy courts;

• state special courts, e.g. for cases involving small amounts or special litigants;

• trial courts with juries.

[Optional] U.S. Supreme Court Procedures
Watch this 7-minute video to learn more about the US Supreme Court:
Federal Judicial System
Source: Schubert, F. A. (2011). Introduction to Law and the Legal System. Cengage Learning.
Enlarged version:
Federal Judicial System
Source: Schubert, F. A. (2011). Introduction to Law and the Legal System. Cengage Learning.
Enlarged version:
Jurisdiction of the Federal & State Systems

Jurisdiction is the power granted to a court system to hear and determine controversies.

In the US, jurisdiction is divided between:
1) Subject-matter jurisdiction
2) Personal jurisdiction

1) Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

It is the power of a court to decide a particular type of case.

– Federal courts in the US have “particularized subject-matter jurisdiction” usually based on “federal questions” (cases involving constitution, federal statutes, or treaties) or “diversity jurisdiction” (cases involving questions that must be answered according to state laws and the parties are from different states).

– State courts have “general subject-matter jurisdiction” meaning they are usually open to hear any type of case unless it is precluded by the US Constitution, federal statutes, or treaties.

2) Personal Jurisdiction

– It is the jurisdiction over a person.

– Requires that the defendant reside or work in the state in which the lawsuit was filed.

NOTE: Sometimes two courts have simultaneous jurisdiction over the same case – this is known as concurrent jurisdiction.
[Optional] Structure of the Court System
Watch this 7-minute video to learn more:
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
The out-of-court procedures for settling disputes

In the US, as in most countries, the cost of a lawsuit is very expensive and it may include complaint filing fees, motion filing fees, depositions, experts, appeals (if necessary) etc. independent of the final result.

This is one of the reasons why the vast majority of controversies are settled out of the court.

Other reasons are: confidentiality, fast resolution of the controversy, flexibility of the process, suitability for multi-party disputes, practical solutions, desire to maintain good business and relationship with the other party etc.

Methods for Dispute Resolution

The main methods of dispute resolution for businesses controversies are:

1) Negotiation: While the two most common forms of ADR are arbitration and mediation, negotiation is almost always attempted first to resolve a dispute. The main advantage of this form of dispute settlement is that it allows the parties themselves to control the process and the solution.

2) Mediation: Mediators are third-party individuals trained in negotiations who help the opposing parties to settle a case. Mediators cannot impose a settlement on the parties.

3) ArbitrationUnlike mediators, arbitrators have the power to make a final and binding decision. 

NOTE: A settlement may occur before the lawsuit is actually filed or, if the complaint is already filed, before trial.
Jim Rohn Sứ mệnh khởi nghiệp