Federal Court System

how it works!

How they're organzied

District courts are the federal courts where trials are held and lawsuits are begun. Some states have one district court but some larger states have two or three. For all federal cases, district courts have original jurisdiction (which is the authority to hear the case for the first time). They are the only federal courts that involve witnesses and juries.

People who lose in a district court often appeal to the next highest level- the U.S Court Appeals. Appeals courts review decisions made in lower district courts. Each of the twelve U.S Courts of Appeals cover a particular geographic area called a circuit.

A thirteenth appeals court has nationwide jurisdiction. Appeals courts do not hold trials. Instead, judges review the case records and listen to arguments from lawyers on both sides. The judges may decide in one of three ways: uphold the original decision, reverse the decision, or remand the case (or to send it back to the lower court to be tried again).

Federal Judges

Federal Court judges are appointed by the president with the Senates approval. This is in the Constitution. They serve for life terms, which means they serve as long as they want to. Only Supreme Court Justices serve for life.

Fun Fact!

There are 94 District Courts, with every state having at least one district court.

What do the Appeal Courts do?

Appeals courts do not decide guilty or not guilty nor to which side should win a suit. They rule to see if the original trail was fair and if it protected the persons rights. Most court decisions are final. A few cases are appealed to the supreme court. One appellate judge writes an opinion that explains the legal thinking behind the courts decision in the case. The opinion sets a precedent (or model) for the other judges to follow in making their own decisions on similar cases.

Magistrate Judges

They decide if the accused person should be put in jail or released on bail. Each district court has a magistrate judge who will do a lot of the judges routine work. They hear preliminary evidence and determine whether the case should go to trail.

U.S Attorneys

Every federal judicial district has a U.S attorney. A U.S attorney is a government lawyer who prosecutes people accused of breaking federal laws. U.S attorneys look into charges and present the evidence in court.

Fun Fact!

Appellate jurisdiction is the authority to hear a case appealed form a lower court.

U.S Marshal

Every federal judicial district also has a U.S Marshal. Marshals make arrests, collect fines, and take convicted people to prison.