Most trials are handled at the state level; what does the federal court system do? Follow along to learn more!
Understanding the Federal Court System
If you get called for jury duty, it’s unlikely you’ll be heading to a federal courthouse to hear the case. Most trials are handled at the state level; what does the federal court system do?
Structure of Federal Court System
Most legal issues are sorted out in state courts. From the Scopes monkey trial to the acquittal of Casey Anthony, many of the memorable court cases over the years have been conducted at the state level.
Federal courts, on the other hand, handle trials over violations of federal law as well as hearing appeals of decisions in lower courts.
U.S. Supreme Court
9 justices, appointed for life, confirmed by Senate
Cases typically move to Supreme Court as appeals of lower federal and state courts
U.S. Courts of Appeal
13 circuits (12 regional, 1 for federal circuit)
3 judges each, appointed for life, confirmed by Senate
Only hears cases on appeal
U.S. District Courts
94 districts in 50 states and territories
678 judges, appointed for life, confirmed by Senate
No appellate jurisdiction; original jurisdiction over most cases; each district court also has a court to handle bankruptcy cases
Federal Court System Employment
To operate such a massive court system that spans the entire country requires a huge infrastructure of legal professionals. Those who work in the federal court system can include:
Financial and procurement specialists
Federal Court System Workload
The federal judiciary handles a huge number of cases each year, but is the workload rising or falling?
Appeals to Supreme Court that are heard by the court
Appeals court filings (change 2012-13)
Total filings: -0.3%
Civil appeals: -2.4%
Criminal appeals: -2.8%
Administrative agency appeals: +0.5%
Bankruptcy appeals: +26.6%
Original proceedings: +17.9%
Decline in filings for civil cases and criminal defendants in district courts, 2012-13
Change in bankruptcy filings, 2012-13
Chapter 7: -16%
Chapter 11: -13%
Chapter 12: -24%
Chapter 13: -10%