Federal Court System

All you need to know!

The Basics

District Courts are federal courts where trials are held and law suits begin. For all federal uses district courts have original jurisdiction- the authority to hear the case for the first time. People who lose in a district court often appeal to the next highest level- a U.S. Court of Appeals which reviews decisions made in lower district courts. This is appellant jurisdiction defined as the authority to hear a case appeal from a lower court. Each of the 12 U.S. courts of appeals covers a particular geographic unit called a circuit.

Things you should know

Federal Court Cases: If the U.S. government sues someone or someone sues the U.S. government a federal court hears the case. Federal Courts hear disputes between a foreign government and either the U.S. government or an American private party. Federal courts also hear cases regarding maritime and admiralty laws.

Federal judges serve for life terms which means they can hold office for as long as they


In a few circumstances the state and federal courts have concurrent jurisdiction and either may hear the case.

Judges rely on precedent-- model for other judge to follow in making their own decisions on similar cases.

An opinion explains the legal thinking behind the courts decision in the case.

Remand is when a case is sent back to a lower court to be tried again.

Officials within the Federal Court System