Federal Court System

US District Courts

District Courts are where trials are held and lawsuits are begun. For all federal cases, district courts have Original Jurisdiction.

Court of Appeals

The court of appeals is the next highest level in the federal court system. Appeals courts review decisions made in lower district courts. This is appellate jurisdiction. The court may reverse the decision, uphold it, or remand it, which is sending it back to the lower court.

What they Do

Appeals courts only decide whether or not the original trial was fair. One appellate judge writes an opinion, which explains the legal thinking behind the decision. The opinion sets a precedent, or model for other judges to follow in similar cases.

Presidential Nominations

Presidents appoint all federal judges, with Senate approval. These judges serve life terms, meaning they serve for as long as they like. These judges also are given circuits, which are the regular journeys they make around a district to hear cases.

Magistrate Judges

A magistrate judge decides whether accused people should be held in jail or released on bail.

US Attorneys

A US attorney is a government lawyer who prosecutes people accused of breaking federal laws.

US Marshalls

US Marshalls make arrests, collect fines, and take convicted people to prison. They also protect jurors, keep order in the court, and serve subpoenas ordering people to appear in court.