The Federal Court System

The Justice System

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District Courts

District courts are federal courts where trials are held and lawsuits begin.

For all federal cases, including civil and criminal cases, district courts have original jurisdiction, which is the authority to hear the case for the first time.

Each state has at least one district court; larger states have 2 or 3 district courts. Each district court has at least 2 judges. There are currently 94 district courts in the United States.

Appeal Courts

Appeal courts review the decisions made in the lower district courts.

The next step for someone who lost in the district court and wish to appeal the decision. Appeal courts have appellate jurisdiction, which is the authority to hear and appeal a case from lower courts. After hearing the case the panel of judges can uphold the original decision, reverse the decision or remand the case, which is to send the case back to a district court to be tried again. Afterwards, one of the appellate judges writes an opinion that explains the legal thinking behind the court's decision. Most appeal courts' decision are final.

There are 12 courts of appeal in the US with 6-27 judges at each appeal court; each court covers a particular geographic area called a circuit.

The 13th Appeal Court

This court is the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and has nationwide jurisdiction.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest court. It is made up of a panel of 9 judges.

The last step for someone who isn't happy with the decision of the lower courts. After the Justices, the 9 judges, hear the oral arguments for both sides of the case, each of the justices vote and decided on the case in the Justice's Conference; the Justice's write several opinions to explain the reasoning behind the vote. These opinions are the majority opinion, which is an explanation to why the majority of the judges voted for or against the petitioner, the concurring opinion,which is an explanation with additional reasons why the majority of the judges voted for or against the petitioner, and the dissenting opinion, which explains why some of the judges may disagree with the majority opinion. These opinions are saved and used later on in similar cases as precedence.

To be a federal judge, they are nominated by the President and must be approved by the Senate. The senator from their state also must approve of their nomination; if they don't, the President withdraws the nomination. This is call senatorial courtesy.

Being a federal judge is a life term, which means that they can hold the position for as long as they want.

Some Other Federal System Workers

Justice and equality for all!

We Are Your Federal System

Contact your local district court for more information.

(Image: The current Justices)