Appellate courts are generally mandated to hear petitions of error from the lower trial courts. In most states, the intermediate appellate courts were established for the purpose of relieving the workload of the highest courts in the states. The intermediate courts were meant to serve as avenues where litigants would have adverse decisions from trial courts reviewed. Intermediate Appellate Courts (IACs) primarily offer the appeal of right and most of them are obligated to hear cases that are filed in the court (States Courts of Appeal, 2012). Considering that IACs listen to virtually all the filed cases, these courts are usually overloaded with work. Hence, they are often referred to as the ‘workhorses’ of the appellate justice system (States Courts of Appeal, 2012).
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The role of the Intermediate Appellate Courts has changed over time due to the rising appellate filings as well as the expansion of their jurisdiction through state constitutional amendments and statutory enactments (States Courts of Appeal, 2012). Most of the highest courts in states have primary jurisdiction but they do not have the required resources to review all the decisions that have errors. Therefore, Intermediate Appellate Courts deals with issues of first impression while clarifying and developing the existing law (States Courts of Appeal, 2012). Even though the Intermediate Appellate Courts continue to serve their traditional role of correcting errors, the role of these courts has evolved to that of defining and developing the law.
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High Appellate Courts are also referred to as state supreme courts. These courts represent the highest judicial representation in a given state. On matters that pertain to state law, the decision of the high appellate courts is considered to be final and binding in both the federal and state courts. However, the decisions made by high appellate courts can be appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States only if the case involves a federal law. The intermediate appellate courts act as the intermediary between the lower courts and the state supreme courts. State supreme courts usually have no choice but to take into consideration the will of the people (Devins & Mansker, 2010).
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In some states, justices in the state supreme courts usually stand for reelection and voters can overturn the decisions of these courts by amending the state constitution through the initiative process (Devins & Mansker, 2010). In certain instances, state supreme courts interpret the state constitutions in order to protect themselves from the condition set by the Supreme Court of the United States (Devins & Mansker, 2010). The high appellate courts have been regarded by some as being prone to political influence when compared to the federal courts.
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