The Federal Court System
This is the first(lowest) level of the Federal Court System. The trial level is where there is a hearing with witnesses and a jury. The trial level often occurs in District Courts, Bankruptcy Courts, and Court of Federal Claims. The responsibility of the trial level is to decide upon a verdict (guilty or innocent). The trial level has the right to original jurisdiction, which means that they have the right to hear the trial first.
This is the second level of the Federal Court System. The appellate level is the U.S. Court of Appeals, meaning that it reviews trials that have occurred in the trial level if a petitioner from the trial has appealed to a higher court. There are twelve U.S. Court of Appeals that each cover their own specific area of the United States. The Appeals Courts review the prior trial and decides whether is was a fair trial or if it should be heard again. They do not get to decide whether the defendant if guilty or innocent. The U.S Appeals Court has the right to appellate jurisdiction meaning that they have the authority to hear a case that has already been heard in a lower level court.
The Supreme Court is the 3rd and highest level of the Federal Court System. The Supreme Court has the ability to Writ of Certiorari, meaning that the Supreme Court Justices' are able to request that a lower court send up the records of cases heard in lower court. In order to hear a case four of the nine Justices' must vote for hearing the trial. If the case is heard in the Supreme Court the judges must decide on a verdict and present "opinions" in order to explain their reasoning for it to be used as a model for future cases. The main responsibility that the Supreme Court has is to interpret and apply the "Living Constitution" as it applies to current situations.