Trial Court Definition

Discover the definition and importance of trial courts, along with examples and statistics. Learn how trial courts play a critical role in the legal system.

What is a Trial Court?

A trial court is the first level of a court system where cases are heard and decided upon. It is where a judge or jury listens to evidence and arguments from both sides in a legal dispute and makes a final decision.

Role of a Trial Court

The primary role of a trial court is to determine the facts of a case and apply the relevant law to those facts in order to reach a decision. This is known as adjudicating a case.

Types of Cases Heard in Trial Courts

Trial courts typically hear civil cases, such as disputes over contracts or property, as well as criminal cases involving violations of the law. Family law matters, such as divorces and child custody disputes, are also commonly heard in trial courts.

Examples of Trial Court Cases

  • A breach of contract dispute between two businesses
  • A criminal trial for a robbery
  • A custody battle between two parents

Importance of Trial Courts

Trial courts play a crucial role in the legal system by providing a forum for parties to present their case and seek a resolution to their legal disputes. They are essential for upholding justice and ensuring that the rule of law is followed.


According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were over 88 million cases filed in state trial courts in 2020. This highlights the significant caseload that trial courts handle on a yearly basis.

Case Study: Brown v. Board of Education

One of the most famous trial court cases in American history is Brown v. Board of Education, where the Supreme Court ruled that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. This landmark case started in a trial court and eventually made its way to the highest court in the land.

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