Government Information: Lower Federal Courts
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:
- U.S. Court of International TradeThis court has nationwide jurisdiction over cases involving international trade and customs issues.
- U.S. Court of Federal ClaimsThis court has nationwide jurisdiction over most claims against the United States.
- U.S. Tax CourtThis court offers a forum for taxpayers to dispute a tax deficiency determined by the Commissioner of the I.R.S. This court also has jurisdiction over a variety of other (tax/worker) cases.
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed ForcesThis court has worldwide appellate jurisdiction over members of the armed forces on active duty and other persons subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
- U.S. Court of Appeals for Veteran's ClaimsThis court reviews certain Board of Veteran's Affairs decisions. It does not hold trials, receive new evidence, or hear witnesses. Th USCAVC reviews Board of Veteran's Affairs decisions, the written record, and the briefs of the parties.
- U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict LitigationThis panel determines 1) whether civil actions pending in different federal districts should be transferred to a single district for pretrial proceedings; and 2) the selection of judge/s and court assigned to conduct such proceedings.
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
Seal of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Starting Points for Research
- United States CourtsOfficial website of the Federal Judiciary.
- U.S. Courts: Federal CourtsFind information about federal courts and their history. You will also find links to: a glossary of legal terms, a court finder, electronic case files,
- District/Circuit Map of Lower Federal CourtsThis PDF shows the geographic boundaries of US Courts of Appeals and US District Courts.