How the Federal Court System Works
By: Sara Hall
U.S. Courts of Appeals
- Appeals courts review decisions made in lower district courts
- These courts have the authority to hear a case appealed from a lower court - appellate jurisdiction
- There are 12 U.S. courts of appeals that cover a particular geographic area known as a circuit.
- Only an appellate judge writes an opinion (states the legal thinking behind the court's decision).
- This opinion then sets a model for other judges to follow in making decisions on similar cases, also known as a precedent.
- The judges may decide to remand a case, or send it back to the lower court to be tried again
- Life terms is defined by judges who have their position for as long as they would like.
- These judges decide whether the accused should be held in jail or released in bail
- They also hear preliminary evidence and determine if a case should go to trial
- Every federal judicial district has a U.S. marshal
- They make arrests, collect fines, and take those who have been convicted to jail
- Other jobs include: protecting jurors, keeping order in the court, and serving subpoenas (ordering people to appear in court)
- These are government lawyers who prosecute people accused of breaking federal laws
- Jobs include: looking into the charges, presenting the evidence in court, and representing the United States in civil cases involving the government