The Federal Court System

How does the Federal Court System Work?

The Constitution authorizes the creation of all federal courts below the Supreme Court, defines the jurisdiction of the courts, and decides how many judges there should be for each court. Federal courthouses are designed to inspire in the public a respect for the tradition and purpose of the American judicial process; that is why the whole process is open to the public. The three levels of the Federal Court System ensures that every case is tried and given the chance to be heard. If it is important enough, it will move all the way up to the Supreme Court and be tried. Isn't our justice system great??
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Levels of the Federal Court System

1st (Bottom) Level-The District Courts:
  • Has original jurisdiction meaning the authority to hear the case for the first time
  • Has a jury to determine guilt or innocence
2nd (Middle) Level-The Court of Appeals:
  • Has appellate jurisdiction meaning the authority to hear a case appealed from a lower court
  • A circuit is the geographic area of a U.S. Court of Appeals
3rd (Top) Level-The Supreme Court:
  • It's Judicial Power comes from Article III of the Constitution

Important Vocab to Understand the Federal Court System

  • Opinion-explains the legal thinking behind the court's decision in a case
  • Remand-sending the case back to the lower court to be tried again
  • Precedent-model for other judges to follow in making their own decisions on similar cases
  • Life terms- when someone can hold office for as long as they would like
  • U.S. Marshall-makes arrests, collects fines, and takes convicted people to prison
  • U.S. Attorney-government lawyer who prosecutes people accused of breaking Federal Laws
  • Magistrate Judge-decides whether the accused should be held in jail or released on bail