Circuit courts originated at a time when most people lived in scattered communities across the country. A traveling judge would hold trials in each county within a designated territory called a circuit. This eliminated the need for each town to have its own court, judge and jail.
U.S Circuit Courts of Appeal
The United States is divided into 13 circuits represented by a U.S Circuit Court of Appeal. With the exception of defendants found not guilty, a dissatisfied party can appeal judgments made by a U.S District court in the Court of Appeal for his district. The Court of Appeals reviews the trial record for legal mistakes and determines if a judgment should be overturned.
State Circuit Courts
In some states, such as Virginia and Florida, the circuit courts function as a trial court and court of appeals. These courts try civil cases involving large sums of money, felonies and equity matters such as divorces, wills and property disputes.In others, such as Louisiana, they are a court of appeals.