How the Federal Court System Works

by Mackenzie Holcombe

District Court - The first level of Federal Court

The district court is where all cases are held. It has original jurisdiction, which means it has the authority to hear the case for the first time.

Court of Appeals - The second level of federal court

If there is a mistake in a trial, a lawyer can request an appeal, and they will be sent to the court of appeals. This court has appellate jurisdiction, which is the authority to hear a case appealed from a lower court. The 12 U.S. courts of appeals covers a geographic region called a circuit. In the court of appeals, the judge is allowed to make one of three decisions:

1. Uphold the original decision

2. Overturn the decision

3. Remand, or send it back to the district court to be tried again

During the case, one appellate judge will write an opinion that explains the legal thinking behind the courts decision. That opinion will set a precedent, or model, for other judges to follow when making their own decisions for cases.

Officials in Courts

Supreme Court Judges, usually called Justices have life terms on the Supreme Court, meaning they can leave whenever they want.

A magistrate judge is a judge that decides if the accused should be held in jail or released on bail.

U.S. Attorneys are government lawyers who prosecute people accused of breaking federal laws. They also represent the U.S. in government involved cases.

U.S. Marshalls make arrests, collect fines, and take convicts to prison.