How Are Federal Courts Organized

Trevor Baker

District Courts

District courts are the lowest of the federal courts and are where trials are first held, and lawsuits begin. District Courts have original jurisdiction which means they are the first to hear any cases.

The Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals is the 2nd highest court system, and is where cases who lose are usually reviewed to ensure a proper trial. The authority to hear a case from a lower court is called appellate jurisdiction. There are 12 Courts of Appeal that cover certain geographic areas, called a circuit. There is a 13th Court which has national jurisdiction. There judges can decide 3 ways on a decision. They can uphold the decision, reverse it, or remand it meaning it will be sent back to be tried again. An appellate judge will write an opinion on his decision for the case, which will be used as a precedent for similar cases in the future.

Judges and Members of the Court System

The first level of judges are magistrate judges, that decide if the accused should be released on bail, or if the case should be heard at all. If a case goes to trial a US Attorney located in each district will prosecute people who are suspected of breaking federal laws. All federal judges must be appointed by the President with approval from the Senate. Federal judges serve can serve for life and can step down at any time. They may only be removed if impeached. Federal Courts also have US Marshall's who make arrests, collect fines and take the convicted to prison. They also protect jurors, uphold order in the court and issue subpoenas .