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date: 01 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Trial courts and their actors play critical gatekeeping and filtering roles within the judicial hierarchy. As this chapter discusses, the decisions made by litigants and judges in the millions of criminal and civil trial court cases in the United States each year affect things like what cases get filed, how cases develop, what cases settle or plea bargain and when, whether losing litigants will appeal, and, if they do, how the appellate courts will respond. This chapter proceeds by first examining the selection of disputes and charges that takes place by parties, prosecutors, and other lawyers prior to a case being filed in a trial court. Next, the chapter details the decision-making of trial court parties, lawyers, and judges. As the chapter concludes, it discusses the unique set of challenges present for interdisciplinary research on trial courts.

Keywords: district courts, judges, trial court, litigation, prosecution, gatekeeping, judicial hierarchy

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