Federal Court System information

By: Keyshawn Brown

District Courts

The District Courts are the 1st (Lowest) level of the Federal Court System and it's where all cases start. The District Courts has original Jurisdiction which is where they have authority to hear the case for the first time.


Fun Facts: The District Court completes about 15% of federal cases.

Has at least 2 judges

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Appeal Courts

  • Appeal Courts are the 2nd (Middle) level in the Federal Court System.
  • Has Appellate Jurisdiction which means that they have the authority to hear a case appealed from a lower court.
  • Has 6 to 27 judges
  • The judges are appointed by the President and approved by the Senate
  • Trials are not used at this level
  • Cases were appealed because of a request from a lower level
  • U.S # Court of Appeals which supervises a district
  • Doesn't determine if someone is guilty or innocent; only makes sure if the trial was fair and protected the person's rights
Court of Appeals (Nationwide Jurisdiction)

No Trial

Has a panel of judges that looks at case records and listens to the arguments lawyers from both sides.

  • There are 3 decisions that can be made:
  1. Uphold- Keep the original decision
  2. Overturn- Reverse the decision
  3. Remand- Send it back to the lower courts to be tried again


Key Definitions:

Circuit- 12 U.S courts of appeals covers a particular geographical area.

Appellate opinion- Explains the legal thinking behind the court's decisions in the case; sets the precedent.

Appellate precedent- Model for other judges to follow in making their own decisions on similar cases.

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Supreme Court and Officials

  • Judges in the Supreme court are often called: Justices
  • There are 9 judges in the Supreme court
  • Head Judge is called Chief Justice
  • Appointed by the President and approved by the Senate
  • These justice serve life terms (Once appointed they can only be removed by impeachment)
  • The U.S Attorney is a government lawyer who represent the United States government in all cases and present evidence in court.
  • The U.S Marshalls makes arrests, collects fines and takes convicted people to prison, They also protect jurors, keep order in the court, and serve papers.
  • Magistrate Judges determine if accused people should be held in jail or released on bail. They also do much of the judge's routine work and hear preliminary evidence and determine whether or not the case should go to trial.
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