Our Founding Fathers understood the need for an independent Judiciary, which was created under Article III of the United States Constitution. The Judicial Branch is one of the three separate and distinct branches of the federal government. The other two are the legislative and executive branches.
If you would like to learn more about the federal Judiciary and how the courts work, take a few minutes to visit the links below.
Structure of Federal Courts
Supreme Court of the U.S
The United States Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices. At its discretion, and within certain guidelines established by Congress, the Supreme Court each year hears a limited number of the cases it is asked to decide. Those cases may begin in the federal or state courts, and they usually involve important questions about the Constitution or federal law.
About the Supreme Court
Landmark Case podcast series
Supreme Court Official Website
Supreme Court Historical Society
Federal Appeals Courts
The 94 U.S. judicial districts are organized into 12 regional circuits, each of which has a United States court of appeals. A court of appeals hears appeals from the district courts located within its circuit, as well as appeals from decisions of federal administrative agencies.
In addition, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has nationwide jurisdiction to hear appeals in specialized cases, such as those involving patent laws and cases decided by the Court of International Trade and the Court of Federal Claims.
12 Regional Circuit Courts of Appeals
About the Courts of Appeals
Bankruptcy Appellate Panels
1 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
About the Courts of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
U.S District Courts (Trial Courts)
The United States district courts are the trial courts of the federal court system. Within limits set by Congress and the Constitution, the district courts have jurisdiction to hear nearly all categories of federal cases, including both civil and criminal matters. Every day hundreds of people across the nation are selected for jury duty and help decide some of these cases.
There are 94 federal judicial districts, including at least one district in each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Three territories of the United States -- the Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands -- have district courts that hear federal cases, including bankruptcy cases.
Bankruptcy courts are separate units of the district courts. Federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over bankruptcy cases. This means that a bankruptcy case cannot be filed in a state court.
There are two special trial courts that have nationwide jurisdiction over certain types of cases.
1. The Court of International Trade addresses cases involving international trade and customs issues.
2. The United States Court of Federal Claims has jurisdiction over most claims for money damages against the United States, disputes over federal contracts, unlawful "takings" of private property by the federal government, and a variety of other claims against the United States.
Federal Courts Outside the Judicial Branch
U.S Court of Appeals for the Armed Services
U.S Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
U.S. Tax Courts
Structure and Function
Federal Judicial Process
Federal Courts & the Public
Federal Courts in American Government
Federal Courts' Structure
Federal Court Jurisdiction
Administrative Office of the U.S Courts
Federal Judicial Center
U.S Sentencing Commission