United States federal courts
The United States federal courts are the system of courts organized under the Constitution and laws of the federal government of the United States. The federal courts decide disputes involving the Constitution and laws passed by Congress.
Altogether, about 1,700 judgeships are authorized in the federal court system. The federal courts hear far fewer cases than do the state courts, but federal court cases tend more often to be of national significance.
See also federal judge.
The courts are a branch of government, and include:
- The Article III general jurisdiction courts:
- Courts of specific subject-matter jurisdiction:
- United States bankruptcy courts, an Article I court.
- United States Tax Court, an Article I court.
- United States Court of International Trade, an Article III court.
- United States Court of Federal Claims, an Article I court.
- United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, an Article I court.
- United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, an Article I court.
- United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, an Article III court.
- United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
- Former U.S. courts:
Levels of U.S. federal courts
The United States district courts are the general federal trial courts, although in many cases Congress has passed statutes which divert original jurisdiction to the above-mentioned specialized courts or to administrative law judges (ALJs). In such cases, the district courts have jurisdiction to hear appeals from such lower bodies.
The United States courts of appeals are the federal intermediate appellate courts. They operate under a system of mandatory review which means they must hear all appeals from the lower courts.
The Supreme Court of the United States is the supreme court (court of last resort). It generally operates under discretionary review, meaning that it can pick and choose cases (through grants of writ of certiorari) and hear only the non-frivolous appeals that present truly novel issues. In a few unusual situations (like lawsuits between state governments or some cases between the federal government and a state) it sits as a court of original jurisdiction. Such matters are generally referred to a designated individual (usually a sitting or retired judge or well-respected attorney) to sit as a special master and report to the Court with recommendations.
The Judiciary in the United States Congress
The Federal Courts can be a focal point of debate in the Congress. This is evident by both the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee which is the central clearinghouse in the Federal Government that determines which legislation affecting the Federal Courts is debated and voted on the Floors of the House and Senate.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is very powerful as it plays a big role in determining which federal judges nominated by the President of the United States and key officials in the Department of Justice are confirmed as the Senate is required to approve all Presidential nominations.
The Inspector General of the Federal Judiciary
Recently proposed legislation in Congress has proposed for a Inspector General of the Federal Courts to create the first known independent oversight of the Federal Court System as there has been growing outcry from legal experts and the general public for greater accountablity and transparency in the Federal Courts.
- The Robing Room - Federal Judge Rating Website
- The Federal Judiciary (official U.S. government site)
- Federal Court Concepts, Georgia Tech
- Federal District Court Case Filings
- Creating the Federal Judicial System (PDF)
- History of the Courts of the Federal Judiciary