US District Courts
* All states have at least one but some larger states have two or three.
* For all federal cases, district courts have original jurisdiction, the authority to hear the case for the first time.
* District courts hear both civil and criminal cases.
US Courts of Appeals
* This is called appellate jurisdiction--- the authority to hear a case appealed from a lower court.
* People who lose in a district court often appeal to the next highest level which is a US court of appeals.
* Each of the 12 US courts of appeals covers a particular geographic area. (called a circuit)
What they do:
* Appeals courts do not decide guilt or innocence or which side should win a suit.
* They rule only on whether the original trial was fair and protected the person's rights.
* Most appeal 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.
One Extra Court:
* A 13th court, the court of appeals for the federal circuit, has nationwide jurisdiction.
* Appeals courts do not hold trials; instead a panel of judges reviews the case records and listens to arguments from lawyers on both sides.
The judge may decide by upholding the original decision, reverses the design, or remands the case.
Types of Jurisdictions
Appellate Jurisdiction: The authority to hear a case appealed from a lower court. Can send original cases to be checked for mistakes or remanded.
Limited Jurisdiction: The authority to put only specific types of cases on trial.
General Jurisdiction: The power to put most types of cases on trial. This is including criminal and civil.
Criminal Jurisdiction: The power to decide whether a law has been broken. If they are guilty they are given a punishment.
Civil Jurisdiction: The authority to settle disputes between citizens that involve damages and/or injuries. If they are liable they pay for the compensation.
* The president appoints all federal judges with Senate approval.
* As a senatorial courtesy, presidents submit their nominations for judges to the senators from the nominee's state.
* Judges can only be removed through impeachment once appointed.
* They decide whether accused people should be held in jail or released on bail.
* Each district court has magistrate judges who do much of the judges's routine work.
* They hear preliminary evidence and determine whether the case should go to trial.
* Every federal judicial district also has a US attorney--- a government lawyer who prosecutes people accused of breaking federal laws.
* US attorneys look into the charges and present the evidence in court.
* They also represent the US in civil cases involving the government.
* Every federal judicial district also has a US marshal.
* Marshals make arrests, collect fines, and take convicted people to prison.
* They protect jurors, keep order in the court, and serve subpoenas ordering people to appear in court.