CH. 18-2 THE INFERIOR COURTS AMERICAN GOVERNMENT
THE DISTRICT COURTS • US District courts are the federal trial courts • 677 judges handle more than 300,000 cases per year (80% of the federal case load) • These courts created by the Judiciary Act of 1789. There are currently 94 (96) districts • FEDERAL JUDICIAL DISTRICTS • 50 states are divided into 89 judicial districts • Also districts in Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands • Most cases heard by a single judge but sometimes there is a 3-judge panel
DISTRICT COURT JURISDICTION • Original jurisdiction over most cases except those that start in the Supreme Court or the US Court for International Trade • Criminal or civil cases • Criminal—a defendant is tried for committing some crime as stated in federal law • Civil—involves noncriminal matters such as patent infringement or contract issues • Most district court decisions are final. Some rulings may be appealed to a different court.
THE COURT OF APPEALS • Created by Congress in 1891 • Established as “gatekeepers” to relieve the Supreme Court of much of the burden of hearing appeals from district courts • DOCKET—list of cases to be heard by a court • 12 judicial circuits • APPELLATE COURT JUDGES • 179 circuit judges • Each Supreme Court Justice is assigned to a circuit as well
APPELLATE COURT JURISDICTION • These courts hear only cases on appeal from district courts within their circuit • They also hear cases from other agencies such as Federal Trade Commission, etc. • 70,000 cases or more annually
OTHER CONSTITUTIONAL COURTS • THE COURT OF INTERNATIONAL TRADE • Created in 1890 • 9 judges • Hears civil cases related to tariffs, trade, etc. • THE COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FEDERAL CIRCUIT • Created in 1982 • Established to speed up handling of appeals in certain types of civil cases • Hears appeals from several types of courts • THE END