State Governments - Reading Comprehension
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State Governments
By Phyllis Naegeli
  

1     Within the United States of America, there are fifty separate territories each with its own government and citizens. These territories, called states, joined our country over a period of one hundred and seventy two years. The first state was Delaware, which joined on December 12, 1781, and the last was Hawaii, which became a state on August 21, 1959.
 
2     Each state has a government similar to our federal government. They have constitutions and make laws for their citizens. They each have a leader called a governor, who is like the president of the state. He or she carries out the laws of the state and controls state agencies such as school and road departments. Each state also has a legislature where laws are made. With the exception of Nebraska which only has a senate each state has two houses in their legislature the senate and the house of representatives. The size of each of these bodies varies by state. Most state legislatures make laws by following the same pattern as the national government.
 
3     All states have a court system to decide cases involving state law, the state's constitution, or civil cases between citizens of that state. There are three kinds of courts in the state court system. The first level is the trial court. It is here that most cases begin the legal process. Lawsuits and criminal cases come before a judge and a jury in the trial court. After all sides have presented their point of view, offered evidence, and brought forth witnesses, the jury decides on the outcome. In a criminal case, the jury decides on the guilt or innocence of the accused party. In a civil case, the jury decides if a wrong has been committed and what the remedy should be. If the outcome of a case is unfavorable, the case can be appealed to the next level the state appeals court. Here, an appeals judge decides if the trial was fair. Again, an unfavorable appeal can be taken before the state supreme court. Usually, the state supreme court has the final word in a case. However, if in the appeals process, a U.S. Constitutional or federal law question arises, the United States Supreme Court may be asked to review the case.

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