HOME

TheInfoList



The United States courts of appeals or circuit courts are the intermediate
appellate court An appellate court, commonly called a court of appeal(s), appeal court, court of second instance or second instance court, is any court of law that is empowered to hear an appeal of a trial court A trial court or court of first instance is ...
s of the
United States federal judiciary The federal judiciary of the United States is one of the three branches of the federal government of the United States The federal government of the United States (U.S. federal government) is the Federation#Federal governments, national g ...
. The courts are divided into 13 circuits, and each hears
appeal In law, an appeal is the process in which cases are reviewed by a higher authority, where parties request a formal change to an official decision. Appeals function both as a process for error correction as well as a process of clarifying an ...
s from the district courts within its borders, or in some instances from other designated federal courts and
administrative agencies A government or state agency, sometimes an appointed commission, is a permanent or semi-permanent organization in the machinery of government The machinery of government (sometimes abbreviated as MoG) is the interconnected structures and processe ...
. Appeals from the circuit courts are taken to the
Supreme Court of the United States The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the Federal judiciary of the United States, federal judiciary of the United States of America. It has ultimate and largely Procedures of the Supreme Court of the United S ...

Supreme Court of the United States
. The district, appellate, and Supreme courts are all authorized under
Article Three of the United States Constitution Article Three of the United States Constitution establishes the judicial branch of the Federal government of the United States, federal government. Under Article Three, the judicial branch consists of the Supreme Court of the United States, as well ...
. The United States courts of appeals are considered the most powerful and influential courts in the United States after the Supreme Court. Because of their ability to set legal precedent in regions that cover millions of Americans, the United States courts of appeals have strong policy influence on U.S. law. Moreover, because the Supreme Court chooses to review fewer than 3% of the 7,000 to 8,000 cases filed with it annually, the U.S. courts of appeals serve as the final arbiter on most federal cases. There are currently 179 judgeships on the U.S. courts of appeals authorized by Congress in pursuant to Article III of the U.S. Constitution. Like other federal judges, they are nominated by the
President of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president directs the Federal government of the United States#Executive branch, executive branch of the Federal govern ...

President of the United States
and confirmed by the
United States Senate The United States Senate is the Upper house, upper chamber of the United States Congress, with the United States House of Representatives, House of Representatives being the Lower house, lower chamber. Together they compose the national Bica ...
. They have lifetime tenure, earning (as of 2019) an annual salary of $223,700. The actual number of judges in service varies, both because of vacancies and because
senior judge Senior status is a form of semi-retirement Retirement is the withdrawal from one's position or occupation or from one's active working life. A person may also semi-retire by reducing work hours or workload. Many people choose to retire when t ...
s who continue to hear cases are not counted against the number of authorized judgeships. The 11 numbered circuits and the D.C. Circuit are geographically defined by the boundaries of their assigned U.S. district courts. The
Tenth Circuit The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit (in case citations, 10th Cir.) is a United States federal court, federal court with appellate jurisdiction over the United States district court, district courts in the following United Sta ...
is unique in that it contains a small portion of Idaho and Montana, both in the
Ninth Circuit The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (in case citations, 9th Cir.) is a federal court of appeals that has appellate jurisdiction Appellate jurisdiction is the power of an appellate court to review, amend and overrule decis ...
, due to the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming extending out of state to cover all of
Yellowstone National Park Yellowstone National Park is an American national park#REDIRECT National park A national park is a park in use for Conservation (ethic), conservation purposes, created and protected by national governments. Often it is a reserve of natura ...

Yellowstone National Park
. The 13th court of appeals is the
Federal Circuit Federal or foederal (archaic) may refer to: Politics General *Federal monarchy A federal monarchy, in the strict sense, is a federation of Federated state, states with a single monarch as overall head of the federation, but retaining different ...
, which has nationwide jurisdiction over certain appeals based on specialized subject matter. All of the courts of appeals also hear appeals from some administrative agency decisions and rulemaking, with by far the largest share of these cases heard by the D.C. Circuit. The
Federal Circuit Federal or foederal (archaic) may refer to: Politics General *Federal monarchy A federal monarchy, in the strict sense, is a federation of Federated state, states with a single monarch as overall head of the federation, but retaining different ...
hears appeals from specialized trial courts, primarily the
United States Court of International Trade The United States Court of International Trade ( case citations: Int'l Trade or Intl. Trade) is a U.S. federal court that adjudicates civil actions arising out of U.S. customs and international trade laws. Seated in New York City New ...
and the
United States Court of Federal Claims The United States Court of Federal Claims (in case citations, Fed. Cl. or C.F.C.) is a United States federal court The federal judiciary of the United States is one of the three branches of the federal government of the United States organized ...
, as well as appeals from the district courts in
patent A patent is a type of intellectual property that gives its owner the legal right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention for a limited period of years in exchange for publishing an sufficiency of disclosure, enabling disclo ...

patent
cases and certain other specialized matters. Decisions of the U.S. courts of appeals have been published by the private company
West Publishing West (also known by its original name, West Publishing) is a business owned by Thomson Reuters that publishes legal, business, and regulatory information in print, and on electronic services such as Westlaw. Since the late 19th century, West ha ...
in the ''
Federal Reporter The ''Federal Reporter'' is a case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority to judge, adjudicate on, or determine claims or ...
'' series since the courts were established. Only decisions that the courts designate for publication are included. The "unpublished" opinions (of all but the
Fifth Fifth is the Ordinal number (linguistics), ordinal form of the number 5, five. Fifth or The Fifth may refer to: * Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as in the expression "pleading the Fifth" * Fifth column, a political term * Fifth ...
and Eleventh Circuits) are published separately in West's ''
Federal AppendixThe ''Federal Appendix'' is a case law reporter (law), reporter published by West Publishing. It publishes judicial opinions of the United States courts of appeals that have not been expressly selected or designated for publication. Such "Non-publi ...
'', and they are also available in on-line databases like
LexisNexis LexisNexis is a corporation providing computer-assisted legal research (CALR) as well as business research and risk-management services. During the 1970s, LexisNexis pioneered the electronic accessibility of legal and journalistic documents. , th ...

LexisNexis
or
Westlaw Westlaw is an online legal research service and proprietary database A database is an organized collection of data Data are units of information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it answers the question ...
. More recently, court decisions have also been made available electronically on official court websites. However, there are also a few federal court decisions that are classified for national security reasons. The circuit with the smallest number of appellate judges is the First Circuit, and the one with the largest number of appellate judges is the geographically large and populous
Ninth Circuit The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (in case citations, 9th Cir.) is a federal court of appeals that has appellate jurisdiction Appellate jurisdiction is the power of an appellate court to review, amend and overrule decis ...
in the Far West. The number of judges that the
U.S. Congress The United States Congress or U.S. Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States and consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Wa ...

U.S. Congress
has authorized for each circuit is set forth by law in , while the places where those judges must regularly sit to hear appeals are prescribed in . Although the courts of appeals are frequently called "circuit courts", they should not be confused with the former
United States circuit court The United States circuit courts were the original intermediate level courts of the United States federal court system The federal judiciary of the United States is one of the three branches of the federal government of the United States ...
s, which were active from 1789 to 1911, during the time when long-distance transportation was much less available, and which were primarily first-level federal
trial court A trial court or court of first instance is a court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the adminis ...
s that moved periodically from place to place in "circuits" in order to serve the dispersed population in towns and the smaller cities that existed then. The current "courts of appeals" system was established in the
Judiciary Act of 1891 The Judiciary Act of 1891 (), also known as the Evarts Act after its primary sponsor, Senator William M. Evarts, created the United States courts of appeals The United States courts of appeals or circuit courts are the intermediate appellate co ...
, also known as the Evarts Act.


Procedure

Because the courts of appeals possess only appellate jurisdiction, they do not hold
trial In law, a trial is a coming together of parties to a dispute, to present information (in the form of evidence Evidence, broadly construed, is anything presented in support of an assertion, because evident things are undoubted. There are ...

trial
s. Only courts with
original jurisdiction In common law legal systems original jurisdiction of a court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out ...
hold trials and thus determine punishments (in criminal cases) and remedies (in civil cases). Instead, appeals courts review decisions of trial courts for errors of law. Accordingly, an appeals court considers only the record (that is, the papers the parties filed and the transcripts and any exhibits from any trial) from the trial court, and the legal arguments of the parties. These arguments, which are presented in written form and can range in length from dozens to hundreds of pages, are known as
briefs Briefs are a type of short, form-fitting underwear and swimsuit, swimwear, as opposed to styles where material extends down the thighs. Briefs have various different styles, usually with a waistband attached to fabric that runs along the pelvis ...
. Sometimes lawyers are permitted to add to their written briefs with
oral argument Oral arguments are spoken presentations to a judge A judge is a person who wiktionary:preside, presides over court proceedings, either alone or as a part of a Judicial panel, panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discip ...
s before the appeals judges. At such hearings, only the parties' lawyers speak to the court. The rules that govern the procedure in the courts of appeals are the
Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure#REDIRECT Federal Rules of Appellate ProcedureThe Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure (officially abbreviated Fed. R. App. P.; colloquially FRAP) are a set of rules, promulgated by the Supreme Court of the United States on recommendation of an advis ...
. In a court of appeals, an appeal is almost always heard by a "panel" of three judges who are randomly selected from the available judges (including senior judges and judges temporarily assigned to the circuit). Some cases, however, receive an ''
en banc In law, an ''en banc'' session ( French for "in bench") is a session in which a case is heard before all the judge A judge is a person who wiktionary:preside, presides over court proceedings, either alone or as a part of a Judicial panel, pan ...
'' hearing. Except in the Ninth Circuit Court, the ''en banc'' court consists of all of the circuit judges who are on active status, but it does not include the senior or assigned judges (except that under some circumstances, a senior judge may participate in an en banc hearing when he or she participated at an earlier stage of the same case). Because of the large number of Appellate Judges in the
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (in case citation Case citation is a system used by legal professionals to identify past court case decisions, either in series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a neutral ...
(29), only ten judges, chosen at random, and the Chief Judge hear ''en banc'' cases. Many decades ago, certain classes of federal court cases held the right of an automatic appeal to the
Supreme Court of the United States The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the Federal judiciary of the United States, federal judiciary of the United States of America. It has ultimate and largely Procedures of the Supreme Court of the United S ...

Supreme Court of the United States
. That is, one of the parties in the case could appeal a decision of a court of appeals to the Supreme Court, and it had to accept the case. The right of automatic appeal for most types of decisions of a court of appeals was ended by an Act of Congress, the Judiciary Act of 1925, which also reorganized many other things in the federal court system. Passage of this law was urged by
Chief Justice The chief justice is the Chief judge, presiding member of a supreme court in any of many countries with a justice system based on English common law, such as the High Court of Australia, the Supreme Court of Canada, the Supreme Court of Ghana, the C ...
William Howard Taft William Howard Taft (September 15, 1857March 8, 1930) was the 27th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the United States of America. The president dire ...

William Howard Taft
. The current procedure is that a party in a case may apply to the Supreme Court to review a ruling of the circuit court. This is called petitioning for a
writ of certiorari In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by its ...
, and the Supreme Court may choose, in its sole discretion, to review any lower court ruling. In extremely rare cases, the Supreme Court may grant the writ of certiorari before the judgment is rendered by the court of appeals, thereby reviewing the lower court's ruling directly. Certiorari before judgment was granted in the
Watergate scandal The Watergate scandal was a major political scandal in the United States involving the administration Administration may refer to: Management of organizations * Management, the act of directing people towards accomplishing a goal ** Admin ...
-related case, '' United States v. Nixon'', and in the 2005 decision involving the
Federal Sentencing GuidelinesThe United States Federal Sentencing Guidelines are rules that set out a uniform policy for sentencing individuals and organizations convicted of felonies and serious (Class A) misdemeanors in the United States federal courts system. The Guidelines ...
, ''
United States v. Booker ''United States v. Booker'', 543 U.S. 220 (2005), is a United States Supreme Court The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States of America The United States of Am ...
''. A court of appeals may also pose questions to the Supreme Court for a ruling in the midst of reviewing a case. This procedure was formerly used somewhat commonly, but now it is quite rare. For example, while between 1937 and 1946 twenty 'certificate' cases were accepted, since 1947 the Supreme Court has accepted only four. The Second Circuit, sitting ''en banc'', attempted to use this procedure in the case ''United States v. Penaranda'', 375 F.3d 238 (2d Cir. 2004), as a result of the Supreme Court's decision in '' Blakely v. Washington'', but the Supreme Court dismissed the question. ''See'' ''United States v. Penaranda'', 543 U.S. 1117 (2005). The last instance of the Supreme Court accepting a set of questions and answering them was in 1982's ''City of Mesquite v. Aladdin's Castle, Inc'', 455 US 283 (1982). A court of appeals may convene a
Bankruptcy Appellate Panel A Bankruptcy Appellate Panel (abbreviated BAP) is authorized b28 U.S.C. ยง 158(b)to hear, with the consent of all parties, appeal In law, an appeal is the process in which cases are reviewed by a higher authority, where parties request a f ...
to hear appeals in
bankruptcy Bankruptcy is a legal process through which people or other entities who cannot repay debts to creditors may seek relief from some or all of their debts. In most jurisdictions, bankruptcy is imposed by a court order, often initiated by the debto ...
cases directly from the
bankruptcy court United States bankruptcy courts are courts created under Article I of the United States Constitution. The current system of bankruptcy courts was created by the United States Congress The United States Congress or U.S. Congress is the bi ...
of its circuit. , only the
First First or 1st is the ordinal form of the number 1 (number), one (#1). First or 1st may also refer to: *World record, specifically the first instance of a particular achievement Arts and media Music * 1$T, American rapper, singer-songwriter, DJ, ...
, Sixth, Eighth,
Ninth interval on C. s) In music theory, music, a ninth is a Interval (music)#Simple and compound, compound interval (music), interval consisting of an octave plus a Interval number, second. Like the second, the interval of a ninth is classifi ...
, and Tenth Circuits have established a Bankruptcy Appellate Panel. Those circuits that do not have a Bankruptcy Appellate Panel have their bankruptcy appeals heard by the district court. Courts of appeals decisions, unlike those of the lower federal courts, establish binding
precedent A precedent is a principle or rule established in a previous legal case A legal case is in a general sense a dispute between opposing parties which may be resolved by a court, or by some equivalent legal process. A legal case is typically based ...
s. Other federal courts in that circuit must, from that point forward, follow the appeals court's guidance in similar cases, regardless of whether the trial judge thinks that the case should be decided differently. Federal and state laws can and do change from time to time, depending on the actions of Congress and the state legislatures. Therefore, the law that exists at the time of the appeal might be different from the law that existed at the time of the events that are in controversy under civil or criminal law in the case at hand. A court of appeals applies the law as it exists at the time of the appeal; otherwise, it would be handing down decisions that would be instantly obsolete, and this would be a waste of time and resources, since such decisions could not be cited as precedent. " court is to apply the law in effect at the time it renders its decision, unless doing so would result in manifest injustice, or there is statutory direction or some legislative history to the contrary." However, the above rule cannot apply in criminal cases if the effect of applying the newer law would be to create an ''ex post facto'' law to the detriment of the defendant. Decisions made by the circuit courts only apply to the states within the court's oversight, though other courts may use the guidance issued by the circuit court in their own judgments. While a single case can only be heard by one circuit court, a core legal principle may be tried through multiple cases in separate circuit courts, creating an inconsistency between different parts of the United States. This creates a
split decision A split decision (SD) is a winning criterion in boxing, most commonly in full-contact combat sport A combat sport, or fighting sport, is a competitive contact sport that usually involves one-on-one combat. In many combat sports, a contestant wins ...
among the circuit courts. Often, if there is a split decision between two or more circuits, and a related case is petitioned to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court will take that case as to resolve the split.


Attorneys

In order to serve as counsel in a case appealed to a circuit court, the attorney must first be admitted to the bar of that circuit.
Admission to the barAn admission to practice law is acquired when a lawyer receives a license to practice law. In jurisdictions with two types of lawyer, as with barristers and solicitors, barristers must gain admission to the bar whereas for solicitors there are distin ...
of a circuit court is granted as a matter of course to any attorney who is admitted to practice law in any state of the United States. The attorney submits an application, pays a fee, and takes the oath of admission. Local practice varies as to whether the oath is given in writing or in open court before a judge of the circuit, and most courts of appeals allow the applicant attorney to choose which method he or she prefers.


Nomenclature

When the courts of appeals were created in 1891, one was created for each of the nine circuits then existing, and each court was named the "United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the _____ Circuit". When a court of appeals was created for the District of Columbia in 1893, it was named the "Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia", and it was renamed to the "United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia" in 1934. In 1948, Congress renamed all of the courts of appeals then existing to their current formal names: the court of appeals for each numbered circuit was named the "United States Court of Appeals for the _____ Circuit", and the "United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia" became the "United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit". The Tenth Circuit was created in 1929 by subdividing the existing Eighth Circuit, and the Eleventh Circuit was created in 1981 by subdividing the existing Fifth Circuit. The Federal Circuit was created in 1982 by the merger of the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals and the appellate division of the United States Court of Claims.


Judicial councils

Judicial councils are panels in each circuit that are charged with making "necessary and appropriate orders for the effective and expeditious administration of justice" within their circuits. Among their responsibilities is judicial discipline, the formulation of circuit policy, the implementation of policy directives received from the
Judicial Conference of the United StatesThe Judicial Conference of the United States, formerly known as the Conference of Senior Circuit Judges, was created by the United States Congress The United States Congress or U.S. Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal gove ...
, and the annual submission of a report to the
Administrative Office of the United States Courts The Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AO) is the administrative agency of the United States federal court system. It was established in 1939. The AO is the central support entity for the federal judicial branch. It provides a w ...
on the number and nature of orders entered during the year that relate to judicial misconduct. Judicial councils consist of the chief judge of the circuit and an equal number of circuit judges and district judges of the circuit.


Circuit composition

The courts of appeals, and the lower courts and specific other bodies over which they have appellate jurisdiction, are as follows:


Circuit population

Based on
2010 United States Census The United States Census of 2010 was the twenty-third United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North Americ ...
figures, the population residing in each circuit is as follows.


History

The
Judiciary Act of 1789 The Judiciary Act of 1789 (ch. 20, ) was a United States federal statute adopted on September 24, 1789, in the first session of the First United States Congress. It established the federal judiciary of the United States. Article Three of the Unit ...

Judiciary Act of 1789
established three circuits, which were groups of judicial districts in which
United States circuit court The United States circuit courts were the original intermediate level courts of the United States federal court system The federal judiciary of the United States is one of the three branches of the federal government of the United States ...
s were established. Each circuit court consisted of two
Supreme Court A supreme court is the highest court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the administration of just ...

Supreme Court
justices and the local district judge; the three circuits existed solely for the purpose of assigning the justices to a group of circuit courts. Some districts (generally the ones most difficult for an itinerant justice to reach) did not have a circuit court; in these districts the district court exercised the original jurisdiction of a circuit court. As new states were admitted to the Union, Congress often did not create circuit courts for them for a number of years. The number of circuits remained unchanged until the year after Rhode Island ratified the Constitution, when the
Midnight Judges ActThe Midnight Judges Act (also known as the Judiciary Act of 1801; , and officially An act to provide for the more convenient organization of the Courts of the United States) represented an effort to solve an issue in the U.S. Supreme Court during the ...
reorganized the districts into six circuits, and created circuit judgeships so that Supreme Court justices would no longer have to ride circuit. This Act, however, was repealed in March 1802, and Congress provided that the former circuit courts would be revived as of July 1 of that year. But it then passed the new
Judiciary Act of 1802The United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, ...
in April, so that the revival of the old courts never took effect. The 1802 Act restored circuit riding, but with only one justice to a circuit; it therefore created six new circuits, but with slightly different compositions than the 1801 Act. These six circuits later were augmented by others. Until 1866, each new circuit (except the short-lived California Circuit) was accompanied by a newly created Supreme Court seat.


See also

*
District of Columbia Court of Appeals The District of Columbia Court of Appeals is the highest court of the District of Columbia ) , image_skyline = , image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial ...
, a federally established appellate court that is not considered a U.S. court of appeals *
List of current United States circuit judges#REDIRECT List of current United States circuit judges {{Redirect category shell, {{R from move ...
* List of United States courts of appeals cases * Judicial appointment history for United States federal courts *
United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (FISCR) is a U.S. federal court whose sole purpose is to review denials of applications for electronic surveillance warrants (called FISA warrants) by the United States Foreign I ...
*
United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces The United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (in case citations, C.A.A.F. or USCAAF) is an Article I tribunals, Article I court that exercises worldwide appellate jurisdiction over members of the United States Armed Forces on active d ...
, an Article I tribunal that hears appeals of court-martial decisions *
United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims The United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (in case citations, Vet. App.) is a federal court of record that was established under Article I of the United States Constitution, and is thus referred to as an Article I tribunal (court ...
, an Article I tribunal that reviews decisions of the Board of Veterans' Appeals *
State supreme court In the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Was ...


Notes


References


External links


Info about U.S. courts

History of the Federal Judiciary
(
Federal Judicial Center The Federal Judicial Center is the education and research agency of the United States federal court The federal judiciary of the United States is one of the three branches of the federal government of the United States organized under the Consti ...
)
Official site of the United States Courts

United States Appeals Courts @ OpenJurist


{{United States topics
Court of Appeals An appellate court, commonly called an ''appeals court'', ''court of appeals'' (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the Engl ...
1891 establishments in the United States Courts and tribunals established in 1891