Federal Court System

United States Supreme Court

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The United States Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States. It sits in Washington D.C.  and is comprised of nine justices who are appointed for life by the President of the United States after they are confirmed by the United States Senate.  Article III of the United States Constitution created the Supreme Court and authorized Congress to pass laws establishing a system of lower courts.  In the federal court system’s present form, 94 district level trial courts and 13 courts of appeal sit below the Supreme Court.  Article III, Section II of the Constitution establishes the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.  This is what gives the court its power to hear cases.  This power gives the court “original jurisdiction” over certain cases involving lawsuits between two or more states or cases involving ambassadors and other public ministers.  This power also gives the court “appellate jurisdiction” on almost any other case that involves a point of constitutional and/or federal law that has been decided by a lower Federal or State court.  When exercising its appellate jurisdiction, the court, with a few exceptions, does not have to hear a case.  The Certiorari Act of 1925 gives the court the discretion to decide whether or not to do so.  In a petition for a writ of certiorari, a party asks the court to review its case.  The Supreme Court only agrees to hear about 100-150 of the more than 7,000 cases that it is asked to review each year.

Link: http://www.supremecourt.gov/

The Federal circuit courts of appeal are intermediate appellate courts of the United States Court system.  The 94 federal judicial districts are organized into 12 regional circuits, each of which has a court of appeals. The appellate court’s task is to determine whether or not the law was applied correctly in the trial court.  Appeals courts hear challenges to district court decisions from courts located within its circuit.  The courts of appeals (other than the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit) have jurisdiction to hear appeals from all final decisions of the district courts of the United States, the United States District Court for the District of the Canal Zone, the District Court of Guam, and the District Court of the Virgin Islands.  Typically, arguments are made before a panel of three judges unless special circumstances allow for cases to be heard by the entire court.

The 12 circuits are comprised of the following regions:

First Circuit – Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico

Link: http://www.ca1.uscourts.gov

Second Circuit – New York, Connecticut and Vermont

Link: http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/

Third Circuit – Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and U.S.  Virgin Islands

Link: http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/

Fourth Circuit – Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina

Link: http://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/

Fifth Circuit – Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas

Link: http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/

Sixth Circuit – Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan

Link: http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/

Seventh Circuit – Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana

Link: http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/

Eighth Circuit – North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas

Link: http://www.ca8.uscourts.gov/

Ninth Circuit – California, Arizona, Nevada, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.


Tenth Circuit – Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma

Link: http://www.ca10.uscourts.gov/

Eleventh Circuit – Alabama, Florida and Georgia

Note: Prior to October 1, 1981, the States within the Eleventh Circuit were originally a part of the Fifth Circuit

Link: http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/

D.C.  Circuit

Link: http://www.cadc.uscourts.gov/internet/home.nsf


(Federal Trial Courts)

The nation’s 94 trial courts are called United States District Courts. District courts resolve disputes by determining the facts and applying legal principles either though jury trial, or the parties settlement, or by other orders of the court.  Trial courts are presided over by district court judges who are appointed, for life, by the President of the United States after Senate confirmation.  Unless the parties agree otherwise, all trials are before a jury comprised of 12 citizens who decide the case. District judges are often assisted by United States Magistrate Judges, who, although not appointed for life, hear any matters referred to them. Magistrate Judges may also conduct trials in misdemeanor cases by agreement of the parties.  There is at least one district court in each state and the District of Columbia; although, many states have multiple districts because of the population.  Four territories of the United States have United States District Courts that hear Federal cases, including, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

The following is a list of the district courts, by circuit, and by state:

First Circuit:

Maine – District of Maine

Link: http://www.med.uscourts.gov/

New Hampshire – District of New Hampshire

Link: http://www.nhd.uscourts.gov/

Massachusetts – District of Massachusetts

Link: http://www.mad.uscourts.gov/

Rhode Island – District of Rhode Island

Link: http://www.rid.uscourts.gov/

Puerto Rico – District of Puerto Rico

Link: http://www.prd.uscourts.gov/

Second Circuit:

Connecticut – District of Connecticut

Link: http://www.ctd.uscourts.gov/

Vermont – District of Vermont

Link: http://www.vtd.uscourts.gov/

New York:

Eastern District of New York

Link: https://www.nyed.uscourts.gov/

Western District of New York

Link: http://www.nywd.uscourts.gov/

Northern District of New York

Link: http://www.nynd.uscourts.gov/

Southern District of New York

Link: http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/

Third Circuit:

Delaware – District of Delaware

Link: http://www.ded.uscourts.gov/

New Jersey – District of New Jersey

Link: http://www.njd.uscourts.gov/


Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Link: http://www.paed.uscourts.gov/

Middle District of Pennsylvania

Link: http://www.pamd.uscourts.gov/

Western District of Pennsylvania

Link: http://www.pawd.uscourts.gov/

U.S.  Virgin Islands – District of Virgin Islands

Link: http://www.vid.uscourts.gov/

Fourth Circuit:

Maryland – District of Maryland

Link: http://www.mdd.uscourts.gov/

South Carolina – District of South Carolina

Link: http://www.scd.uscourts.gov/


Eastern District of Virginia

Link: http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov/

Western District of Virginia

Link: http://www.vawd.uscourts.gov/

West Virginia:

Northern District of West Virginia

Link: http://www.wvnd.uscourts.gov/

Southern District of West Virginia

Link: http://www.wvsd.uscourts.gov/

North Carolina:

Eastern District of North Carolina

Link: http://www.nced.uscourts.gov/

Middle District of North Carolina

Link: http://www.ncmd.uscourts.gov/

Western District of North Carolina

Link: http://www.ncwd.uscourts.gov/

Fifth Circuit:


Eastern District of Louisiana

Link: http://www.laed.uscourts.gov/

Middle District of Louisiana

Link: http://www.lamd.uscourts.gov/

Western District of Louisiana

Link: http://www.lawd.uscourts.gov/


Northern District of Mississippi

Link: http://www.msnd.uscourts.gov/

Southern District of Mississippi

Link: http://www.mssd.uscourts.gov/


Eastern District of Texas

Link: http://www.txed.uscourts.gov/

Western District of Texas


Northern District of Texas

Link: http://www.txnd.uscourts.gov/

Southern District of Texas

Link: http://www.txdd.uscourts.gov/

Sixth Circuit:


Eastern District of Kentucky

Link: http://www.kyed.uscourts.gov/

Western District of Kentucky

Link: http://www.kywd.uscourts.gov/


Eastern District of Michigan

Link: http://www.mied.uscourts.gov/

Western District of Michigan

Link: http://www.miwd.uscourts.gov/


Northern District of Ohio


Southern District of Ohio



Eastern District of Tennessee

Link: http://www.tned.uscourts.gov/

Middle District of Tennessee

Link: http://www.tnmd.uscourts.gov/

Western District of Tennessee

Link: http://www.tnwd.uscourts.gov/

Seventh Circuit:


Northern District of Illinois

Link: http://www.ilnd.uscourts.gov/

Central District of Illinois

Link: http://www.ilcd.uscourts.gov/

Southern District of Illinois

Link: http://www.ilsd.uscourts.gov/


Northern District of Indiana

Link: http://www.innd.uscourts.gov/

Southern District of Indiana

Link: http://www.insd.uscourts.gov/


Eastern District of Wisconsin

Link: http://www.wied.uscourts.gov/

Western District of Wisconsin

Link: http://www.wiwd.uscourts.gov/

Eighth Circuit:


Eastern District of Arkansas


Western District of Arkansas

Link: http://www.arwd.uscourts.gov/


Northern District of Iowa

Link: http://www.iand.uscourts.gov

Southern District of Iowa

Link: http://www.iasd.uscourts.gov

Minnesota – District of Minnesota

Link: http://www.mnd.uscourts.gov/


Eastern District of Missouri

Link: http://www.moed.uscourts.gov/

Western District of Missouri

Link: http://www.mowd.uscourts.gov/

Nebraska – District of Nebraska

Link: http://www.ned.uscourts.gov/

North Dakota – District of North Dakota

Link: http://www.ndd.uscourts.gov/

South Dakota – District of South Dakota

Link: http://www.sdd.uscourts.gov/

Ninth Circuit:

Alaska – District of Alaska

Link: http://www.akd.uscourts.gov/

Arizona – District of Arizona

Link: http://www.azd.uscourts.gov/


Central District of California

Link: http://www.cacd.uscourts.gov/

Eastern District of California

Link: http://www.caed.uscourts.gov/

Northern District of California

Link: http://www.cand.uscourts.gov/

Southern District of California

Link: http://www.casd.uscourts.gov/

Hawaii – District of Hawaii

Link: http://www.hid.uscourts.gov/

Idaho- District of Idaho

Link: http://www.idd.uscourts.gov/

Montana – District of Montana

Link: http://www.mtd.uscourts.gov/

Nevada – District of Nevada

Link: http://www.nvd.uscourts.gov/

Oregon – District of Oregon



Eastern District of Washington

Link: http://www.waed.uscourts.gov/

Western District of Washington

Link: http://www.wawd.uscourts.gov/

Guam – District of Guam

Link: http://www.gud.uscourts.gov/

Northern Mariana Islands – District of the Northern Mariana Islands

Link: http://www.nmid.uscourts.gov/

Tenth Circuit:

Colorado – District of Colorado

Link: http://www.cod.uscourts.gov/

Kansas – District of Kansas

Link: http://www.ksd.uscourts.gov/


Eastern District of Oklahoma

Link: http://www.oked.uscourts.gov/

Northern District of Oklahoma

Link: http://www.oknd.uscourts.gov/

Western District of Oklahoma

Link: http://www.okwd.uscourts.gov/

Utah – District of Utah

Link: http://www.utd.uscourts.gov/

Wyoming – District of Wyoming

Link: http://www.wyd.uscourts.gov/

Eleventh Circuit:


Middle District of Alabama

Link: http://www.almd.uscourts.gov/

Northern District of Alabama

Link: http://www.alnd.uscourts.gov/

Southern District of Alabama

Link: http://www.alsd.uscourts.gov/


Middle District of Florida

Link: http://www.flmd.uscourts.gov/

Northern District of Florida

Link: http://www.flnd.uscourts.gov/

Southern District of Florida

Link: http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov/


Middle District of Georgia:

Link: http://www.gamd.uscourts.gov/

Northern District of Georgia

Link: http://www.gand.uscourts.gov/

Southern District of Georgia

Link: http://www.gasd.uscourts.gov/

D.C.  Circuit

Washington D.C. – District of Columbia

Link: http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/

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