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Judicial Branch Publications

Prepared for LIS 526: Government Publications

Federal Courts

The federal court system has three levels: trial, intermediate appellate, and a court of last resort. The U.S. Supreme Court (the court of last resort) was established by the Constitution (U.S. Const. art III, sec.1). The lower federal courts were created by Congress.

The trial courts are the federal district courts. There are ninety-four judicial districts and each state has at least one. Bankruptcy courts are separate courts within each jurisdiction. There are also two federal trial courts with national jurisdiction: the U.S. Court of International Trade and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Washington State has two federal judicial districts: Eastern Washington and Western Washington.

The intermediate level is the courts of appeals. The ninety-four judicial districts are organized into twelve regional circuits which hear appeals from that jurisdiction. There is also a Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which handles specialized cases, and there are a few other courts of special jurisdiction such as the U.S. Tax Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Washington State is in the Ninth Circuit.

The highest level is the United States Supreme Court, which can hear appeals from the federal circuit courts of appeals and the state courts of last resort. It also has original jurisdiction, meaning it can hear a case from beginning to end if the dispute is between two states or between states and the federal government.

Court Websites

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals includes Washington State.

Washington has two U.S. District Courts: the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington and the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington. Bankruptcy is handled by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Western District of Washington, and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Washington.

Special Matters