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United States Government Information: Lower Federal Courts

Federal information for all branches, including the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial arms of the United States government.

Lower Federal Courts - Introduction

Judicial Review refers to the way in which the Judicial branch fits into the system of checks and balances; federal courts have the right and the power to decide whether or not a law or act is constitutional. The Supreme Court and the federal courts have the power to overturn any congressional or state legislation or other official governmental action that found to be inconsistent with the Constitution, Bill of Rights, or federal law. 

The lower federal courts, with the U.S. Supreme Court, comprise the 3 tiers of the Judicial Branch.  The lower federal courts include:

  • U.S. Court of Appeals
  • U.S. District Courts 
    • U.S. Bankruptcy Courts
    • U.S. Courts of Special Jurisdiction

U.S. Court of Appeals, U.S. District Courts and Bankruptcy Courts

The Courts of Appeals (or appellate courts) hear appeals from the (district) courts in the 94 federal judicial districts.  These 94 districts are organized into 12 regional circuits, with a U.S. Court of Appeals in each distict.  Each court of appeals has jurisdiction over its circuit.  Additionally, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has nationwide jurisdiction over specialized cases, primarily tax, patent, and international trade cases and appeals.

U.S. Courts of Special Jurisdiction

There are a number of courts that have jurisdiction over certain types of cases.  Links to the sites for these courts are below:

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

Seal of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

Starting Points for Research