Federal Court System
By: Loan Le
U.S. Marshal Qualifications
- be a U.S. citizen
- have a bachelor's degree; 3 years of qualifying work experience; or a combination of education and experience equivalent
- have a valid driver's license in good standing
- successfully complete a background investigation
- be in excellent physical condition
- undergo a rigorous 17 1/2 week basic training program
- Every federal judicial district also has a U.S. attorney—a government lawyer who prosecutes people accused of breaking federal laws.
- U.S. attorneys look into the charges and present the evidence in court.
- They also represent the United States in civil cases involving the government.
- U.S. Attorneys and their offices are part of the Department of Justice.
- U.S. Attorneys receive oversight, supervision and administrative support services through the Justice Department.
- Each district court has at least 2 judges.
- Each appeals court has 6 to 27 judges.
- The Supreme Court has 9 justices.
- Federal courts judges are appointed by the president with Senate approval. This is in the Constitution.
- They serve for life terms, which means as long as they want. It doesn't mean they have to stay until then.
- The current Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is John Roberts.
- Only Supreme Court justices serve for life.
U.S. Court of Appeals
- People who lose in a district court often appeal to the next highest level—a U.S. court of appeals.
- Appeals courts review decisions made in lower district courts. An example of this could be if a person has been found guilty of murder and a mistake was found in the proceedings. The defendant’s lawyer can request an appeal.
- This is appellate jurisdiction—the authority to hear a case appealed from a lower court.
- Each of the 12 U.S. courts of appeals covers a particular geographic area called a circuit.
- Appeals courts do not decide guilt or innocence or which side should win a suit.
- They rule only on whether the original trial was fair and protected the person’s rights.
- Most appeals court decisions are final. A few cases are appealed to the Supreme Court.
- One appellate judge writes an opinion that explains the legal thinking behind the court’s decision in the case.
- The opinion sets a precedent or model for other judges to follow in making their own decisions on similar cases.
- A thirteenth appeals court, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, has nationwide jurisdiction.
- Appeals courts do not hold trials. Instead, a panel of judges reviews the case records and listens to arguments from lawyers on both sides.
- The judges for this and all appeals courts are appointed by the President and approved by the Senate.
- The judges may decide in one of three ways: uphold the original decision, reverse the decision, or remand the case—send it back to the lower court to be tried again.
U.S District Courts
- Where trials are held and lawsuits are begun.
- All states have at least one but some larger states have two or three.
- For all federal cases, district courts have original jurisdiction, the authority to hear the case for the first time.
- District courts (94) hear both civil and criminal cases.
- The only federal courts that involve witnesses and juries.