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This article is about courts of law. For alternative meanings see: Court (disambiguation).

A court consists of an official, public forum which a public power establishes by lawful authority to adjudicate disputes, and to dispense civil, labour, administrative and criminal justice under the law. Some courts may function with a jury that make decisions about the facts before the court under the direction of the judge; in other courts, such as appellate courts, judges make all the decisions (though some countries run jury courts in appeal). The extent of a court's power to hear the various matters which come before it—its "jurisdiction"—may stem from a constitutional provision, from an Act of Parliament or from an enabling statute. In most civil law jurisdictions courts function under an inquisitorial system. In the common law system most courts follow the adversarial system. Procedural law governs the rules by which courts operate: civil procedure for private disputes (for example); and criminal procedure for violation of the criminal law.

Both unipersonal and pluripersonal courts exist. The various matters which come before a pluripersonal court usually come into the ambit of a particular judge, or of a judicial officer (such as a court commissioner) serving in the capacity of a judge pro tem. Every court has a presiding judge and may have one or more other judges and/or judicial officers assigned to various court departments.

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