The Federal Court System
How it all works!
District and Circuit Courts
The district courts are the general trial courts of the court system. In a district court there will be at least one US District Judge that is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for a life term. District courts handle trials that are both civil and criminal that are within the federal court system. The US Attorney is the primary prosecutor for the federal government in his/her area. In any district court you will find a US Marshal that is placed to conduct courtroom and courthouse security, as well as protecting the people of the courtroom.
Some of the tasks of the district court are given to a federal magistrate judge. These Judges are appointed by the district court by a majority vote of the judges. In a criminal matter, magistrate judges may inspect certain cases, issue search warrants, set bail, and other actions along those lines. In a civil case, magistrates often handle a range of issues such as pre-trial motions. In both civil and criminal cases the judge can choose to use a precedent to rule a case if there was a similar case before hand.
After the federal district court has decided a case, the case can be appealed to a US court of appeal. There are thirteen circuits that divide the US into separate regions, the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has a nationwide jurisdiction over very specific issues. Each circuit has multiple judges, the number of judges on each circuit can range from anything. Circuit court judges are appointed for life by the president and confirmed by the senate. Any case may be appealed to the circuit court once the district court has made a decision. Appeals to circuit courts are first heard by an Appeal panel, the panel consists of three circuit court judges.After briefs are filed, the court will schedule a oral argument in which the lawyers will come before the court the state their arguments/opinions and answer the judges’ questions.