This article is from the Legal Research FAQ, by Mark Eckenwiler with numerous contributions by others.
There are too many state court systems to describe them all here.
This section furnishes only an overview; for detailed information on
state court system structures, _Want's Federal-State Court Directory_
(Want Publishing Co.) includes a useful diagram of the system for each
state, territory, etc.
Most state courts are designed in the same manner as the
federal system: a trial court, an intermediate appellate court,
and a court of final appeal (usually the "Supreme Court"). Some
smaller states omit the intermediate level.
In addition, some of the older court systems use peculiar
naming conventions. In Massachusetts, the highest court is the
Supreme Judicial Court. New York's system is the most confusing by
far: the trial level court of general jurisdiction is the Supreme
Court; the first appellate court is the Supreme Court, Appellate
Division; and the highest court is the Court of Appeals.
As in the federal system, the higher up you go in the system,
the more judges sit on the panel that hears the case.
Also like the federal system, many states have special,
limited-jurisdiction trial courts. These generally include
Family Court, Small Claims Court, Juvenile Court, and so on.