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Research Guides

Government Sources by Subject: [U.S. Lower] Federal Courts


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

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 district.  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. District Courts

US district courts are trial courts and they hear cases from a broad range of issues. There are 94 federal judicial districts, and there is at least one district in every state.  the district courts have jurisdiction to hear civil and criminal cases, and almost all categories of federal cases.  Each district court falls under the jurisdiction of an appellate court (Court of Appeals).

U.S. Bankruptcy Courts

Bankruptcy courts are separate units of the district courts.  Federal courts have exclusive jursidiction over bankruptcy cases.  This means that bankruptcy cases can only be filed in (federal) district courts, and never in state courts. Bankruptcy cases can be filed in all 94 federal judicial districts.

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:

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals

A black and white medalion with a seated woman in ancient greek dress. She holds an hopen book and two stone tablets lean against the her seat. The text reads United States Court of Appeals / Ninth Circuit.


Seal of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

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