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FrontPage : OL on your desk. Describe the 3 levels of the federal judiciary. Homework : OL 11.3 due Tuesday. Structure of the Federal Judiciary. Let’s review . We’ve learned about the purpose and history of the Federal Courts (3 rd branch)

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FrontPage: OL on your desk. Describe the 3 levels of the federal judiciary.

Homework: OL 11.3 due Tuesday

let s review
Let’s review
  • We’ve learned about the purposeand history of the Federal Courts (3rd branch)
  • We also learned about the need for a Supreme Court and that the Framers were split about the need/ desire for lower federal courts
      • These are courts that are part of the national judiciary (underneath the Supreme Court), but would be located throughout the states…
  • What compromise did the Framers agree on to settle this question?
article iii section 1
Article III, Section 1:

“The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”

the judiciary act of 1789
The Judiciary Act of 1789
  • What do you know about the Judiciary Act?
the basic structure of the federal judiciary
The Basic Structure of the Federal Judiciary
  • The lowest level courts are known as district courts
    • First created in 1789…
  • The 2nd level courts are called Circuit courts
    • First actual courts/judgeships created in 1891…
  • The 3rd level of the federal judiciary is the Supreme Court itself
    • Found in the Constitution…

**There are also several other courts which specialize in various areas…more on that later.

starting at the bottom
Starting at the Bottom
  • And in the case of the legislative branch, there is really only one “level”; the House of Representatives and Senate.
  • When we learned about the executive branch, we started at the top.
    • The President is the head of the executive branch, and basically all of the agencies and departments look to him for leadership and direction
    • In the executive branch, all of the work and directions proceed from top to bottom; they follow his orders.
working from the bottom up
Working From the Bottom-Up
  • The Federal Court system is different, however…
    • The Supreme Court is really the last court to hear cases
            • The “court of last resort”
  • The SC, in fact, cannot “act”

in the way that the President or

Congress can…it is a “passive”


**Most of the cases that reach the SC do so by working “up” through the other two levels of the federal court system

first lowest level district courts
First (lowest) levelDistrict Courts
  • These are called the “workhorses of the federal judiciary”
    • Why do you think this is?
  • The text says district courts function as…?
    • What is their “jurisdiction” (area of control)?
  • Today the original number (?) has grown to include how many total federal judicial districts?
    • How many districts must each state have?
        • Caseload (somewhat determined by pop.) determines how many districts a state has…
      • Is there always only 1 judge per district?
the western district of pa has 19 total justices and magistrates
The western district of PA has 19 total justices and magistrates…
  • There are 13 district justices, and 6 district magistrates
    • Both can hear “non-prisoner civil cases”
    • The justices hear death penalty, bankruptcy and other specific, more important matters
    • Magistrates hear prisoner civil cases, and non-death penalty cases
california s 4 judicial districts
California’s 4 Judicial districts

California has over 100 judges and magistrates…

FYI – North Dakota has 4 judges and 3 magistrates

the last word
The Last Word…?
  • Most federal district court opinions are the final word in the cases….
  • But…if a side feels that the decision was incorrect, or feels it did not receive a fair hearing, it may appeal the case to the next level of the federal judiciary
circuit appeals courts
“Circuit” (Appeals) Courts
  • Why were these “circuit courts” (really the judgeships) established in 1891?

A cartoon from 1885 depicts Supreme Court justices being deluged with petitions to review cases from district courts.

circuit appeals courts1
Circuit (Appeals) Courts
  • What are the function and jurisdiction of the Circuit courts?
      • Appeal = request to review the decision of a lower court
    • What kind of jurisdiction do these courts have?
  • How many circuits are there in the US?
there are 23 circuit court judges in the 3 rd circuit court of appeals
There are 23 circuit court judges in the 3rd circuit court of appeals

Typically, a panel of judges will hear appeals and make their decision.

circuit court decisions
Circuit Court Decisions
  • What 3 things can a circuit court do with a case that has been appealed?
  • Unless appealed to the SC, these decisions are final
constitutional courts
Constitutional Courts
  • The district, circuit and SupremeCourts are considered “Constitutional” courts, because they were created by Congress using the power given to it by Article III, as stated above
  • There are other, more “independent courts” that are still part of the federal judiciary…
    • These are called “legislative courts”
legislative courts
“Legislative” Courts
  • Created under Article I (legislative branch) to help Congress carry out its powers…
    • E.g., Congress power to tax enables it to create the US Tax Court
    • Also, Congress power to regulate the armed forces allows it to create the Court of Military Appeals.
the legislative courts
The Legislative Courts
  • US ClaimsCourt– Claims against the US for money damages
  • US Tax Court - Hears cases relating to federal taxes
  • US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces - Hears cases dealing with soldiers/military law
  • US Territorial Courts - Hear cases in US territories (i.e., Guam, Puerto Rico)
  • US Court of International Trade – tariffs and other issues
  • Court of Veterans Appeals – dealing with vet issues
  • Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) – Approves wiretaps for intelligence purposes (w/out search warrant, not made public)
  • The lowest level courts in the federal judiciary are…?
    • They have _____________ jurisdiction.
  • There are ____ districts. PA has…?
    • At least ___ per state….?
  • The 2nd level courts in the federal judiciary are…?
    • They have _____________ jurisdiction.
  • There are ___ circuits total.
    • PA is in the ___ circuit.
  • What type of courts are the SC, Circuit and district courts?
  • Under what authority were legislative courts created?
    • Give an example…