Review of the Federal Court System

Module 6 Lesson 1 Mastery Assignment by Marie Johnson

District Courts

The district court is the lowest level for Federal Court. As consequence, all cases must start here. This is where cases are first held and lawsuits are started. The district court has original jurisdiction, which is the authority to hear a case for the first time. The district court is the only place where witnesses and juries are used. Juries have the power to determine the decision of the case. Also, district courts hear both civil and criminal cases. Every state has at least one district court, but the larger states might have two or three total. Each district court has at least two judges.

Appeals Court

The appeals court is the middle level for Federal Court. Cases are brought here if cases are appealed due to the decisions made in district court. The appeals court has appellate jurisdiction, which is the authority to hear a case appealed from the lower court. This means the appeals court is not in charge of determining guilt or innocence, only of determining if the trial was fair and protected the person's rights. A panel or one or more judges is used to determine the outcome. They have three decisions they could make. they could uphold the original decisions. they could overturn or reverse the decision. Lastly, they could remand the case, sending the case back to the lower to be tried again. Once the panel has made a decision, they have to write an opinion to explain the legal thinking behind the court's decision in the case. This opinion sets a precedent for other judges to follow in making their own decisions on similar cases. They are twelve US courts of appeals in the circuit, which is a particular geographic area. There is also a Thirteenth Court of Appeals that has nationwide jurisdiction. Each appeals court has six to twenty-seven judges.

Fun Fact About Judges

All judges of the federal court are appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. Only Supreme Court Justices are given life terms, so they can serve as long as they could like. Other judges have certain time limits.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest level for the Federal Court. This level has the right to both original and appellate jurisdictions, depending on the case. Whenever the Supreme Court is using appellate jurisdiction, it uses the certiorari process. There is only one Supreme Court and it meets in Washington, D.C.. The judges are called Justices and there are only nine of them. The head Justice is the Chief Justice.

Some of Our Supreme Court Justices:

Key Figures

Magistrate Judges

These judges are in charge of determining whether accused people should held in jail or released on bail as well whether the case should go to trial after hearing preliminary evident. Each district court has a magistrate judge to do much of the judge's routine work.

U.S. Attorneys

A U.S. attorney is a government lawyer who prosecuted people accused of breaking federal laws. They look into charges and present the evidence in court. Additionally, they represent the United States in civil cases involving the government due to their offices being a part of the Department of Justice. Each federal judicial district has one.

U.S. Marshals

Marshals 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. Each federal judicial district has one. There are many qualifications to being a U.S. Marshal. Some key ones are as follows:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Be between ages 21 and 36
  • Successfully complete a background check
  • Be in excellent physical condition