Unit 6 Lesson 1 Mastery Assignment

by, Emily Reavis

How the Federal Court System Works

The Federal Court System is broken up into three levels (last level-highest level): the District Courts, Appeals Courts, and the Supreme Court.

The District Courts are the federal courts where trial are held and lawsuits begin, and they are the only court that involves witnesses and juries. Every state depending on size has at least one or more district courts. These courts have what is called, original jurisdiction, where they have the authority to hear a case for the first time.

The Court of Appeals is next court where typically the case is appealed to if the people lose in the District Court. Here the court reviews decisions made in lower district courts. The jurisdiction here is the Appellate Jurisdiction. The Appellate Jurisdiction gives the authority to hear a case appealed from a lower court. There are twelve Court of Appeals in the United States, where each one covers a particular geographic area called a circuit. Although there is only twelve Court of Appeals, there is a thirteenth one called the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and it has nationwide jurisdiction. In this court, they don't hold trials but, have a panel of judges that review the case records and listen to the arguments made from both sides' lawyers. These judges are appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. As Judges, they can make three different decisions: uphold the original decision, reverse the decision, or they could remand the case where the case is sent back to the lower court to be retried. What exactly do these courts do? The Appeals Courts rule only on whether the original trial was fair and protected the person's rights, and typically the decisions are final. The Appellate Judges write an opinion that explains the legal thinking behind the court's decisions in the case. This opinion sets a precedent as a model for the other judges to follow when they make their own decisions in similar cases. Every federal judge no matter where they are located in the Federal Court System have life terms, which means they can serve for as long as they wish. When a court case goes through the Court of Appeals, and then is appealed again, it goes to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court Justices are the only ones who serve for life.

When going through the court process, there are several people you want to be aware of. The Magistrate Judges are judges who decide on whether the accused people should be held in jail or released on bail. In each District Court these judges hear preliminary evidence and determine whether the case should go to trial. The U.S. Attorney is a government lawyer who belongs to the Department of Justice, and prosecutes people accused of breaking federal laws. Each federal judicial district has one of these as well. The U.S. Attorney represents the United States in Civil Cases involving the government and they look into the charges and present the evidence in court. Another person you should be aware of that are locate in every federal judicial district are the U.S. Marshals. These Marshals make arrests, collect fines, and take convicted people to prison. They not only do that, but they also protect the jurors, keep the court in order, and serve subpoenas ordering people to appear in court.

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