Federal Court System

How it Works

The Courts

  • A case is first seen in a district court. This authority of being the first to hear and decide a case is called original jurisdiction. Each state has at least one district court.
  • If the defendant thinks the district court has made a mistake, their lawyer can request an appeal, or for the case to be seen by a court of appeals. There are 12 courts of appeals that each cover a geographic area called a district.
  • The court of appeals' authority to review a case appealed by a lower court is called appellate jurisdiction. This court reviews the case records and has three options. It can:
  1. Go by precedent, or previous ruling, and uphold the original decision
  2. Reverse the decision
  3. Remand the case, meaning to send it back to the lower court to be tried again
  • Also, the court of appeals writes an opinion to explain the legal reasoning behind their decision

The People

All federal judges are appointed by the president with senate's approval and have life terms - this means they can stay in their position for as long as they want. Here are some other people besides the judges that are present in the federal court system.

Magistrate Judge

  • Decides whether the accused should be held in jail or released on bail
  • Does the routine work of district court judges, as there is a magistrate in each district court
  • Decide if a case should be put on trial after hearing preliminary evidence

U.S. Attorney

  • Prosecutes those accused of breaking a federal law
  • Reviews charges and presents evidence in court
  • Represents the US in civil cases that involve the government

U.S. Marshal

  • 32 years old
  • In top physical condition
  • Has clean background check
  • Has received bachelor's degree
  • Makes arrests, takes those convicted to prison, and collects fines
  • Protects jurors and keeps order in court
  • Serves subpoenas telling people they must appear in court