The Federal Court System

Gabby Watkins

U.S. District Courts

  • federal courts where trials are held and lawsuits begin
  • every state has at least one, but larger states may have two or three
  • district courts have original jurisdiction
  • hear both civil and criminal cases
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U.S. Court of Appeals

  • those who lose in district courts will often appeal to the the U.S. Court of Appeals
  • appeals courts review decisions made in lower level courts
  • thirteen total - twelve cover particular geographic area (circuit) while the thirteenth has nationwide jurisdiction
  • do not hold trials
  • cases are reviewed by a panel of judges who listen to arguments from both sides
  • judges can decide: uphold the original decision, reverse the decision, or remand the case
  • do not decide guilt or innocence or which side should win a suit
  • decide if the original trial was fair and protected the individual's rights
  • appeals court decisions are final; few cases are appealed to the Supreme Court
  • an appellate judge writes an opinion
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How Many Federal Judges Are There?

Each district court has at least two judges, each appeals court has six to twenty-seven judges, and the Supreme Court has nine justices.

Presidential Nominations

  • president appoints all federal judges with senate approval
  • senatorial courtesy: presidents must submit their nominations for judge to the senators from the nominee's home state
  • if a senator objects, the nomination is withdrawn
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Magistrate Judges

  • decide whether accused should be held in jail or released on bail
  • each district court has magistrate judges
  • do most of the routine work
  • hear preliminary evidence and determine whether the case should go to trial

U.S. Attorneys

  • every federal judicial district has a U.S. attorney
  • U.S. attorneys look into charges and present evidence in court
  • represent the U.S. in civil cases involving the government
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U.S. Marshals

  • serve in every federal judicial district
  • make arrests
  • collect fines
  • take convicted people to prison
  • protect jurors
  • keep order in the court
  • serve subpoenas