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- For the court as the seat of a royal person see royal court.
- For the court as a space inside a building, see courtyard.
A court, in law, is a part of the government in which people come together to decide how to apply the country's laws to a specific situation, especially when there is an argument over how to apply the law. Some disagreements a court may decide are whether a person is guilty of a crime, who is the legal owner of property, or who the children of two divorced parents should live with. A court is usually in a special building called a courthouse.
Most countries have multiple courts to deal with different issues. For example, civil courts deal with private disputes between people or organizations, while criminal courts deal with people who have been accused of crimes.
Some courts are higher and can change a decision made by a lower court. This is called court hierarchy. The decision made by a low court can be appealed to a higher one, asking the higher court to change the decision. Higher courts usually have more experienced judges in charge. In the United States, the highest court of all is the Supreme Court.
Courts usually set the punishments for breaking the law. Common punishments include paying fines and spending time in prison. In some countries, courts have the power to sentence people to death (the death penalty).