HOME

TheInfoList




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 or U.S. government) is the national government of the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or U ...
organized under the
United States Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the Supremacy Clause, supreme law of the United States, United States of America. This founding document, originally comprising seven articles, delineates the national frame of government. Its first ...
and
laws Law is a system A system is a group of interacting Interaction is a kind of action that occurs as two or more objects have an effect upon one another. The idea of a two-way effect is essential in the concept of interaction, as oppose ...
of the federal government. Article III of the Constitution requires the establishment of a Supreme Court and permits the Congress to create other federal courts and place limitations on their
jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be i ...
. Article III states that federal judges are appointed by the
president President most commonly refers to: *President (corporate title) A president is a leader of an organization, company, community, club, trade union, university or other group. The relationship between a president and a Chief Executive Officer, chi ...

president
with the consent of the
Senate The Curia Julia in the Roman Forum ">Roman_Forum.html" ;"title="Curia Julia in the Roman Forum">Curia Julia in the Roman Forum A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or Debating chamber, chamber of a bicameral legislatu ...
to serve until they resign, are impeached and convicted, or die.


Courts

All federal courts can be readily identified by the words "United States" (abbreviated to "U.S.") in their official names; no state court may include this designation as part of its name. The federal courts are generally divided between trial courts which hear cases in the first instance, and appellate courts which review specific contested decisions made by lower courts. The
United States district court#REDIRECT United States district court The United States district courts are the general 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 aut ...
s (one in each of the 94 federal judicial districts, and three territorial courts) are general federal trial courts, although in certain cases Congress has diverted original jurisdiction to specialized courts, such as the
Court of International Trade The United States Court of International Trade (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 style tha ...
, the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC, also called the FISA Court) is a U.S. federal court established and authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 19 ...
, the Alien Terrorist Removal Court, or to Article I or Article IV tribunals. The district courts usually have jurisdiction to hear appeals from such tribunals (unless, for example, appeals are to the
Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit A court is any person or institution, often as a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad associative definition, govern ...
.) The
United States courts of appeals 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 tha ...
are the intermediate federal appellate courts. They operate under a system of mandatory review which means they ''must'' hear all appeals of right from the lower courts. In some cases, Congress has diverted appellate jurisdiction to specialized courts, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review. The federal courts of appeals sit permanently in 13 appellate circuits (11 regional circuits as well as a DC Circuit and 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 ...
). Note that there are several other federal courts that bear the phrase "Court of Appeals" in their names, but they are not Article III courts and are not considered to sit in appellate circuits. 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 of America The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or Americ ...

Supreme Court of the United States
is the
court of last resort The 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 ...

court of last resort
. It generally hears appeals from the courts of appeals (and sometimes state courts), operating under
discretionary reviewDiscretionary review is the authority appellate court 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 ...
, which means that the Supreme Court can choose which cases to hear, by granting writs of
certiorari In law, ''certiorari'' is a Legal process, court process to seek judicial review of a decision of a lower court or government agency. ''Certiorari'' comes from the name of an English prerogative writ, issued by a superior court to direct that t ...
. There is therefore generally no basic right of appeal that extends automatically all the way to the Supreme Court. In a few situations (like lawsuits between state governments or some cases between the federal government and a state) it sits as a court of original jurisdiction.


Other tribunals

Besides these federal courts, described as Article III courts, there are other adjudicative bodies described as Article I or Article IV courts in reference to the article of the Constitution from which the court's authority stems. There are a number of Article I courts with appellate jurisdiction over specific subject matter including the
Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims A court is any person or institution, often as a government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad associative definition, govern ...
and the
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 court that exercises worldwide appellate jurisdiction Appellate jurisdiction is the power of an appellate court to review, amend ...
, as well as Article I courts with appellate jurisdiction over specific geographic areas such as the
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 ...
. The Article I courts with original jurisdiction over specific subject matter include the bankruptcy courts (for each district court), the immigration courts, the
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 courts, United States federal court that hears monetary claims against the Federal government of the United States, U.S. government. It i ...

Court of Federal Claims
, and the
Tax CourtTax courts are 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 justice in Civil law (co ...
. Article IV courts include the
High Court of American Samoa The High Court of American Samoa is a Samoan court and the highest court below the 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 ...

High Court of American Samoa
and territorial courts such as the District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands,
District Court of Guam The District Court of Guam (in case citations, D. Guam) is a United States territorial court with jurisdiction over the United States territory In the United States, a territory is any extent of region under the sovereign Sovereign is a title whi ...
, and
District Court of the Virgin Islands The District Court of the Virgin Islands (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 style that id ...
.


Judges

Federal judges, like Supreme Court justices, are appointed by the
president President most commonly refers to: *President (corporate title) A president is a leader of an organization, company, community, club, trade union, university or other group. The relationship between a president and a Chief Executive Officer, chi ...

president
with the consent of the
Senate The Curia Julia in the Roman Forum ">Roman_Forum.html" ;"title="Curia Julia in the Roman Forum">Curia Julia in the Roman Forum A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or Debating chamber, chamber of a bicameral legislatu ...
to serve until they resign, are impeached and convicted, retire, or die. In April 2013, about 10 percent of federal seats were vacant, with 85 of 856 positions unfilled and 4 vacancies on the prestigious Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The high vacancy rate has been attributed to politics, particularly Senate filibustering of potential appointees by Senators.The Editorial Board. (2013)
Courts Without Judges
''NYTimes''.
In many cases there is no nominee for the position; however, the Senate has a tradition of senatorial courtesy in which nominees are only considered if the home senators approve. In May 2013
Congressional Research Service The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a public policy Public policy is an institutionalized proposal to solve relevant and real-world problems, guided by a conception and implemented by programs as a course of action created and/or enac ...

Congressional Research Service
published a paper analyzing the vacancies and appointment process. Under Article I of the federal Constitution, Congress also has the power to establish other tribunals, which are usually quite specialized, within the executive branch to assist the president in the execution of his or her powers. Judges who staff them normally serve terms of fixed duration, as do magistrate judges who assist Article III judges. Judges in Article I tribunals attached to executive branch agencies are referred to as
administrative law judge An administrative law judge (ALJ) 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 ...
s (ALJs) and are generally considered to be part of the executive branch even though they exercise quasi-judicial powers. With limited exceptions, they cannot render final judgments in cases involving life, liberty, and private property rights, but may make preliminary rulings subject to review by an Article III judge.


Administration

* 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 ...
is the policymaking body of the U.S. federal courts. The conference is responsible for creating and revising federal procedural rules pursuant to the
Rules Enabling Act Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social and po ...
. * 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 ...
is the primary support agency for the U.S. federal courts. It is directly responsible to the Judicial Conference. The AO prepares the judiciary's budget, provides and operates secure court facilities, and provides the clerical and administrative staff essential to the efficient operation of the courts. * The judicial councils are panels within each
circuitCircuit may refer to: Science and technology Electrical engineering * Electrical circuit, a complete electrical network with a closed-loop giving a return path for current ** Analog circuit, uses continuous signal levels ** Balanced circuit, p ...
charged with making "necessary and appropriate orders for the effective and expeditious administration of justice". * The
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 Const ...
is the primary research and education agency for the U.S. federal courts. * The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transfers and consolidates cases in multiple judicial districts that share common factual issues. * The
United States Marshals Service The United States Marshals Service (USMS) is a federal law enforcement agency in the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country in . It consi ...
is an Executive Branch agency that is responsible for providing protection for the federal judiciary and transporting federal prisoners. * The Supreme Court Police provide security for the Supreme Court building.


Legal procedure

The Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitution as placing some additional restrictions on the federal courts. For example, the doctrines of
mootness The terms moot and mootness are used in both in English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieval Engla ...
,
ripeness In Law of the United States, United States law, ripeness refers to the readiness of a case for litigation; "a claim is not ripe for adjudication if it rests upon contingent future events that may not occur as anticipated, or indeed may not occur at ...
, and
standing Standing, also referred to as orthostasis, is a position in which the body is held in an ''erect'' ("orthostatic") position and supported only by the feet. Although seemingly static, the body rocks slightly back and forth from the ankle The a ...
prohibit district courts from issuing advisory opinions. Other doctrines, such as the
abstention doctrine An abstention doctrine is any of several doctrines that a United States court may (or in some cases must) apply to refuse to hear a case if hearing the case would potentially intrude upon the powers of another court. Such doctrines are usually invok ...
and the ''Rooker-Feldman'' doctrine limit the power of lower federal courts to disturb rulings made by state courts. The ''Erie'' doctrine requires federal courts to apply substantive state law to claims arising from state law (which may be heard in federal courts under supplemental or diversity jurisdiction). In difficult cases, the federal courts must either guess as to how a court of that state would decide the issue or, if that state accepts certified questions from federal courts when state law is unclear or uncertain, ask an appellate court of that state to decide the issue. Notably, the only federal court that can issue proclamations of federal law that bind state courts is the Supreme Court itself. Decisions of the lower federal courts, whether on issues of federal law or state law (i.e., the question was not certified to a state court), are persuasive but not binding authority in the states in which those federal courts sit. Some commentators assert that another limitation upon federal courts is executive nonacquiescence in judicial decisions, where the executive simply refuses to accept them as
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 ...
. In the context of administration of U.S. internal revenue laws by the Internal Revenue Service, nonacquiescences (published in a series of documents called Actions on Decisions) "generally do not affect the application of stare decisis or the rule of precedent". The IRS "will recognize these principles and generally concede issues accordingly during administrative proceedings." In rare cases, however, the IRS may continue to litigate a legal issue in a given circuit even where the IRS has already lost a case on that issue in that circuit.


History

The
Articles of Confederation The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union was an agreement among the 13 original states of the United States of America The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America ...
provided a clear basis for the initial establishment of United States of America judicial authority by Congress prior to the Constitution. This authority, enumerated by Article IX, allowed for the establishment of United States jurisdiction in the trial of and felonies committed on the high seas, final appeals from state court decisions in all cases of
captures VMware ThinApp (formerly ''Thinstall'') is an application virtualization and portable application creator suite by VMware that can package conventional applications so that they become portable applications. According to VMware, the product has a ...
of enemy ships, last resort for resolution of disputes between two or more states (including disputes over borders and jurisdiction), and final determination of controversies between private parties arising from conflicting land grants issued by two or more states prior to settlement of which state actually has jurisdiction over the territory. The
Court of Appeals in Cases of Capture The former Court of Appeals in Cases of Capture, established by resolution of the Continental Congress on January 15, 1780, was the first United States federal court system, federal court in the United States of America. The court had jurisdictio ...
was the first United States Court established by the United States. Additional United States courts were established to adjudicate border disputes between the states of
Connecticut Connecticut () is the southernmost state in the New England region of the United States. As of the 2010 United States census, 2010 Census, it has the highest per-capita income, second-highest level of List of U.S. states and territories by H ...
and
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania ( , elsewhere ; pdc, Pennsilfaani), officially the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an ocean or whose coastlines lie on endorheic basi ...

Pennsylvania
,
New York New York most commonly refers to: * New York City, the most populous city in the United States, located in the state of New York * New York (state), a state in the northeastern United States New York may also refer to: Film and television * New ...
and
Massachusetts Massachusetts (, ), officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * ...

Massachusetts
,
Georgia Georgia usually refers to: * Georgia (country) Georgia (, ; ) is a country located at the intersection of Eastern Europe and Western Asia. It is a part of the Caucasus region, bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north and east by ...
and
South Carolina South Carolina () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspap ...

South Carolina
. Lastly, a United States court was established for the
Northwest Territory The Northwest Territory, also known as the Old Northwest and formally known as the Territory Northwest of the River Ohio, was formed from unorganized western territory of the United States after the . Established in 1787 by the through the , ...

Northwest Territory
. When the Constitution
came into force 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 bo ...
in 1789, Congress gained the authority to establish the federal judicial system as a whole. Only the Supreme Court was established by the Constitution itself. 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
created the first inferior (i.e., lower) federal courts established pursuant to the Constitution and provided for the first Article III judges. Virtually all U.S.
law school A law school (also known as a law centre or college of law) is an institution specializing in legal education Legal education is the education of individuals in the principles, practices, and theory of law Law is a system A syste ...
s offer an elective course that focuses specifically on the powers and limitations of U.S. federal courts, with coverage of topics such as
justiciability Justiciability concerns the limits upon legal issues over which a court can exercise its judicial authority. It includes, but is not limited to, the legal concept of standing Standing, also referred to as orthostasis, is a position in which ...
,
abstention doctrine An abstention doctrine is any of several doctrines that a United States court may (or in some cases must) apply to refuse to hear a case if hearing the case would potentially intrude upon the powers of another court. Such doctrines are usually invok ...
s, the
abrogation doctrine The Abrogation doctrine is a US constitutional law doctrine expounding when and how the Congress may waive a state's sovereign immunity and subject it to lawsuits to which the state has not consented (''i.e.'', to "abrogate" their immunity to such ...
, and
habeas corpus (; from Medieval Latin Medieval Latin was the form of Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, ...
.Michael L. Wells,
A Litigation-Oriented Approach to Teaching Federal Courts
'', 53 St. Louis U. L.J. 857 (2009).


See also

* PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) *
CM/ECF CM/ECF (Case Management/Electronic Case Files) is the case management and electronic court filing system for most of the United States Federal Courts. PACER (law), PACER, an acronym for ''Public Access to Court Electronic Records'', is an interfac ...
(Case Management/Electronic Case Files) *
List of courts of the United States A ''list'' is any set of items. List or lists may also refer to: People * List (surname)List or Liste is a European surname. Notable people with the surname include: List * Friedrich List (1789–1846), German economist * Garrett List (194 ...
(outline of all state and federal courts in the United States) *
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (officially abbreviated Fed. R. Civ. P.; colloquially FRCP) govern civil procedure Civil procedure is the body of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrela ...
*
State supreme courts of the United States In the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country in . It consists of 50 , a , five major , 326 , and some . At , it is the world's . The Unite ...
* Uniformity and jurisdiction in U.S. federal court tax decisions


References


Further reading


Federal Court Concepts, Georgia TechCreating the Federal Judicial SystemDebates on the Federal Judiciary: A Documentary HistoryHistory of the Courts of the Federal JudiciaryCourtWEB, Online Federal Court Opinions Information System


External links

* {{Judiciaries of the United States
Federal Federal or foederal (archaic) may refer to: Politics General *Federal monarchy, a federation of monarchies *Federation, or ''Federal state'' (federal system), a type of government characterized by both a central (federal) government and states or ...