How the Federal Court System Works

Created by Jordan Bowes

And let's not forget the highest Court in the land...

The U.S. Supreme Court

  • Normally consists of a Chief Justice and 8 Associate Justices
  • They Practice Judicial Review (determining whether a law is Constitutional or not)
  • The primary way to get the Supreme Court to hear your case is through a Writ of Certiorari (The Supreme Court orders a lower court to send up the record for that case for review)
  • Typically the Supreme Court accepts between 100-150 of the 7,000 cases petitioned each year
  • Four of the 9 justices must vote to hear a case
  • After the case, the judges produce opinions (explanations) on why some judges made the decision they did
  • once a case has been decide upon, other courts will use the different opinions issued by the supreme court to rule on future similar cases. This is know as a Precedent

Types of Jurisdiction

  • Appellate Jurisdiction-The authority to hear a case appealed from a lower court (Courts of Appeals, Supreme Court)


  • Original Jurisdiction- The authority to hear a case for the first time (District Courts)

Things to Know

  • A U.S. Marshall makes arrests, collects fines, brings people to prison,protect jurors,keep order in the court and is the one that will be serving you a subpoena if you are ever ordered to appear in court (Note:Every Federal Judicial District has one so don't think you can avoid one if you ever get into any legal trouble)
  • The U.S. Attorneys are the ones who will be prosecuting the people who break federal laws
  • Federal Court judges serve for life terms
  • Magistrate Judges are the people who decide whether people should be held in jail or released on bail. They also determine whether the case should go to trial