The federal court system is made up of several layers, each with its own function. The entire court system is broken into 94 federal judicial districts, each combined with others to form different regional circuits. These circuits have their own court of appeals. Above these circuit courts on the top judicial layer sits the United States Supreme Court.
The United States federal court system includes 94 federal district courts.
What Are Federal District Courts?
Each of our nation's 94 district courts is a trial court, the courts that resolve disputes between two parties by applying legal principles. These courts include a district judge and a jury, and can also include a magistrate judge who will assist the district judge in preparing the case.
How Many Circuits Are There in the Federal Court System?
The 94 federal district courts are broken up into groups, or circuits. There are 12 regional circuits in the federal system, and each one has a court of appeals. Their task is strictly to determine whether the law has been applied correctly in lower court cases. Each of these appeals courts is made up of three judges and no jury. These 12 regional circuits, along with the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, make up the United States Court of Appeals.
What is the Difference Between a District Court and a Circuit Court?
District courts are the main court for deciding a dispute between parties. They are the first judicial stop in most federal cases.
After these cases are decided, the losing party may not agree with the decision and can file an appeal to a higher court. Appeals can only be based on a claim that something in the trial wasn't done in a proper manner, not that the decision was the wrong one. When an appeal is filed after a federal trial, it goes to the corresponding circuit court. These courts hear the facts and history of the case and determine whether the law was applied in the correct manner for the evidence at hand. It's an overview of the way the trial was held, not a reexamination of the facts of the case itself.
How Many District Courts Are There by State?
Each state has at least one district court, as well as the District of Columbia. There are also district courts in four U.S. territories: Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Less populous states have only one district court each, but some states with larger populations have more, with their centers spread across the state. For example, some states and their number of district courts are:
- Alabama: 3
- California: 4
- Florida: 3
- Illinois: 3
- Louisiana: 3
- Michigan: 2
- New York: 4
- Texas: 4
- Wisconsin: 2
Each district is combined with others in their same geographic area to make up the corresponding circuit court.