How the Federal Court System Works

By: Koby Brown

The District Court

  • The 1st level of the Federal court
  • The District Courts have original jurisdiction (the authority to hear the case first)
  • Has a jury to determine guilt or innocence

The Court of Appeals

  • The Court of Appeals is the 2nd level in the Federal Court system
  • The Court of Appeals has appellate jurisdiction
  • 12 U.S Court of Appeals supervise a strict which is called a Circuit
  • The Appeals Court does not hold trials and does not determine guilt or innocence; only if the trial was fair
  • A panel of 6-27 judges are used and they can either uphold, overturn, or remand a case
  • After a case Judges write opinions, which explain the legal thinking behind the court's decision on the case
  • The opinion, in turn, then sets a precedent or a model for other judges to follow when making future decisions

The Supreme Court

  • There are nine judges in the Supreme Court
  • Judges in the Supreme Court are called Justices
  • The head judge is called the Chief Justice
  • Justices serve life terms, meaning that they serve for as long as the like


  • U.S Attorney- A government leader that represents the U.S government in all cases and who prosecutes people accused of breaking the federal law. Also presents the evidence in court.
  • U.S Marshall- These people make arrests, collect fines, and take convicted people to prison. There is one in every federal judicial district. They also protect jurors, keep order in the court, and serve subpoenas ordering people to appear in court.
  • Magistrate Judge- They decide whether accused people should be held in jail or released on bail, determine whether the case should go to trial and do most of the judge's routine work.