image magnifying glass banner image



See CSP Aggregation

Appeal by Permission

An appeal by permission is a case that the appellate court can choose to review. This discretionary review (also referred to as discretionary jurisdiction) is set by the constitution or statute and varies from court to court.

Appeal by Right

An appeal by right is a case that the appellate court must review. This mandatory review (also referred to as mandatory jurisdiction) is set by constitution, statute, or court rule and varies from court to court.

Appellate Courts

Appellate courts review cases appealed from trial courts, intermediate appellate courts, and administrative agencies; preside over original proceedings and disciplinary matters involving the bench and bar; and serve in a supervisory capacity in the administration of the lower courts. Appellate courts fall into two main categories: intermediate appellate courts (IACs) and courts of last resort (COLRs). Appellate court structures differ from state to state.

Appellate Court Structure

This refers to the types of appellate courts and routes of appeal that exist in each state’s judicial system. There are seven different types of appellate structures:

  • COLR By Right.  There is only one appellate court, a court of last resort (COLR), and the court hears appeals by right. This structure is typically found in states with comparatively small volumes of appeals.
  • COLR By Permission.  There is only one appellate court, a COLR, and the court hears appeals by permission. This structure is typically found in states with relatively small volumes of appeals.
  • Deflective Structure.  In states with this structure, appeals are filed, and may be fully briefed and submitted with the COLR, which then retains select appeals and transfers others to the IAC.
  • COLR By Permission/IAC By Right. The COLR hears appeals mostly by permission and the IAC hears appeals mostly by right. This is the most common appellate court structure.
  • COLR and IAC By Permission.  In states with this structure, both the COLR and IAC hear appeals mostly by permission.
  • IAC by Subject Matter.  States with this structure have more than one IAC that is distinguished by subject matter. For example, one IAC is specialized for criminal appeals and the other IAC reviews civil appeals.
  • COLR by Subject Matter.  States with this structure have more than one COLR that is distinguished by subject matter. For example, one COLR is specialized for criminal appeals and the other COLR reviews civil appeals.

Court Level / Tier

Court level refers to the hierarchical structure of courts within a judicial system, each with its own jurisdiction and responsibilities. The exact structure and terminology can vary. At the trial level, courts within each state are identified by court tier, and the Court Statistics Project collects trial court data by court tier. Tiers comprise either General Jurisdiction (GJ) or Limited Jurisdiction (LJ) courts. All states have GJ courts, but some states do not have LJ courts, instead hearing all cases in the GJ tier (these are Single-Tiered states.) The CSP collects appellate court data by the individual court. Appellate courts fall into two main categories: intermediate appellate courts (IACs) and courts of last resort (COLRs). Appellate court structures differ from state to state.

Courts of Last Resort

Courts of last resort, most commonly named supreme courts, are the highest courts in the state, meaning that they are the final arbiters of disputes at the state level. Any additional appeals of a case that has been heard by a court of last resort are made to federal-level courts.

CSP Aggregation (And Aggregation)

The CSP Agg option on the structure chart visualization displays how the courts are designated as LJ or GJ for CSP data collection purposes. The tier-level data for CSP will align to the structure shown by toggling CSP Agg, not that shown by Court Level.

CSP Aggregation refers to the methodology employed by the Court Statistics Project to collect and aggregate a state’s caseloads. In most cases, the CSP designation of General and Limited Jurisdiction courts for data collection is in alignment with the way the states define those courts. In some instances, however, to improve the comparability of caseloads at the tier level across states, the CSP includes LJ court data in the data for the GJ tier. This occurs when an LJ court has exclusive jurisdiction over case types typically heard in GJ courts. If the LJ court that was aggregated to the GJ tier was the state’s only LJ court, then the state becomes a Single-Tiered court for data collection purposes. The aggregation document on the CSP website provides more information about CSP Aggregation.

The following is a list of LJ courts that are included in the GJ tier for the CSP data :

Alabama – Probate Court Nebraska – Juvenile Court; Workers’ Compensation Court
Delaware – Family Court New Jersey – Tax Court
Georgia – Juvenile Court New Mexico – Probate Court
Indiana – Small Claims Court of Marion County New York – Court of Claims; Family Court; Surrogates’ Court
Idaho – Magistrates Division* Ohio – Court of Claims
Maine – Probate Court* Oklahoma – Court of Tax Review
Maryland – Orphans’ Court Rhode Island – Family Court; Probate Court; Workers’ Compensation Court
Massachusetts – Juvenile Court Department; Probate & Family Court Dept. South Carolina – Family Court; Probate Court
Missouri – Municipal Court* Tennessee – Juvenile Court
  Utah – Juvenile Court
* This change makes the state Single-Tiered for CSP purposes

Discretionary Jurisdiction

See Appeal by Permission.


Exclusive jurisdiction over a case type refers to a situation where a specific court has the sole authority to hear and decide these types of cases.

General Jurisdiction

Courts of general jurisdiction are the highest trial court in the state for the matters they hear. Felony criminal cases and high-stakes civil cases are heard in these courts. In some cases, a state’s definition of a general jurisdiction court may differ the way it is categorized for CSP purposes. For more information see CSP Aggregation.

Interlocutory Appeal

Interlocutory appeals are cases filed with the appellate court before the lower tribunal has disposed of the case at hand. Interlocutory appeals generally concern the procedures used during case processing.

Intermediate Appellate Court

Intermediate appellate courts, most commonly named courts of appeals, often hear the majority of the state’s appeals since states with a two-tier appellate system tend to restrict the type of cases that can be appealed directly to the court of last resort. Not every state has an intermediate appellate court. For more information, see Appellate Court Structure.

Limited Jurisdiction

Courts of limited jurisdiction are trial courts that typically only have jurisdiction over certain case types, such as misdemeanors and ordinance violations and civil cases whose remedies have a lesser dollar value than those in the general jurisdiction court. In some cases, a state’s definition of a limited jurisdiction court may differ from the way it is categorized for CSP purposes. For more information see CSP Aggregation.

Mandatory Jurisdiction

See Appeal by Right.

Original Proceeding

An original proceeding is an action that comes to the appellate court in the first instance. These cases do not originate in trial courts or administrative agencies; instead, the appellate court has jurisdiction over these cases from inception. Therefore, the outcome for such a case is not an affirmed or reversed lower court judgement or administrative agency order. Rather, it is the appellate court’s agreement or disagreement with the petitioner that the action that is the subject of the original proceeding was in error, thus granting or denying relief.

Pro se litigant

See Self-Represented Litigant

Pro per litigant

See Self-Represented Litigant

Self-Represented Litigant

This refers to a person who advocates on his or her own behalf before a court, rather than being represented by an attorney. These litigants are also known as pro se or pro per litigants. For more information, see Cases With Self-Represented Litigants.

Trial Courts

Trial courts are courts that decide the cases brought before them; they are the first courts in which the cases are decided. Sometimes referred to as courts of first instance or courts of original jurisdiction, they are the courts in which civil, domestic relations, criminal, juvenile, and traffic/parking/ordinance violations cases are filed.  For CSP purposes, the term “trial court” is used broadly and is meant to encompass single-tiered courts, courts of general and limited jurisdiction, and courts of special jurisdiction (e.g., water court, land court, probate court, tax court, business court, or small claims court), regardless of whether they hold trials or not.

Trial Court Structure [single-tiered, two-tiered]

Trial court structure refers to the organization and hierarchy of the different types of trial courts in a state. States may have a single-tiered or two-tiered trial court structure. In a single-tiered system, all trial court cases are processed in the same type of trial court. Two-tiered systems differentiate the trial courts by whether they are general or limited jurisdiction courts.