The South Carolina judicial system, which includes eight different types of courts, might seem confusing to those who encounter it for the first time. It can be helpful, though, to look at the system as a tiered structure.
On the bottom tier are five courts:
The next tier in the judicial structure are the circuit courts, which are divided into a civil division called the court of common pleas and a criminal division called the court of general sessions. The circuit court system make up South Carolina's primary trial courts.
The next level up is the Court of Appeals, which hears appeals from the circuit courts and family courts.
Under South Carolina law, several classes of cases, including death penalty cases, are not subject to review by the Court of Appeals and go directly to the Supreme Court, the top tier of the state's judicial system. The Supreme Court also has rule-making authority for the entire judicial system.
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