I find myself talking about appeals versus trial courts, but I realize I need a separate post to explain.
There are two types of courts – trial courts and appeals courts. Trial courts have “finders of fact.” The finder of fact could be a judge, jury or hearing officer. Evidence is taken through physical/tangible admissions into evidence (i.e. a smoking gun) or witness testimony. Witnesses can be fact witnesses (“the light was green”) or expert witnesses. At the end of a trial court stage, the only final decision is what the facts are.
Appeals courts are everything above the trial court. But be mindful that a trial court could also be an appellate court if they are the next court up.
The two info graphics below from FloridaCourts.org and JudicialLearning.org are helpful too. The first is for federal courts and the second is the Florida example of state courts. Most states have a similar set-up but the courts themselves are called different things. All state issues that end up in a state Supreme Court can be appealed to the United States Supreme Court, but the USSCT has to accept the case.