Federal Court Systems

Module 6 Lesson 1

District Court

All cases start here

Trail by Jury (or Judge if rights are waived)

Original Jurisdiction - authority to hear case for first time

Hear both Criminal and Civil cases

Hears opinions from both sides

Court of Appeals

Determines if the District Court trail was fair or unfair

No trail, panel of Judges hear lawyers from both sides and reviews case records

3 decisions:

  1. Uphold
  2. Overturn
  3. Remand
12 Courts per Circuit

Appellate Jurisdiction - Authority to hear appealed cases

Supreme Court

Appointed by the President approved by Senate

Called "Justices"

Head Judge is "Chief Justice"

Serve for life or retirement (Life term)


US Marshals - makes arrests, takes convicted person to prison, protect jurors, keep order in court and, serve papers

US Attorney - Lawyers who represent the United States government in court cases

Magistrate Judges - handle routine work

Path of cases

District Court hears the case between the two sides' lawyers

If the case is a Criminal case then one of the lawyers is a US Attorney

A jury (or judge if rights are waived by accused) decides whether or not the accused is guilty or innocent/which side wins a lawsuit

Loser of District Court may appeal to the US Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals then review court records and listens to statements from both lawyers from both sides

Court of Appeals then makes a decision: Uphold, Overturn, or Remand (to be tried again by lower court)

One Appellate judge writes an opinion about the legal thinking behind the case which creates a precedent for other courts to follow in similar cases

Most cases end here but some are appealed to the Supreme Court