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The Federal Court System

The Federal Court System

The United States federal courts make up the judiciary branch of federal government of the United States organized under the United States Constitution and laws of the federal government.


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Eric Jokl

Eric Jokl

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The Court's caseload has increased steadily to a current total of more than 10,000 cases on the docket per Term. The increase has been rapid in recent years. Plenary review, with oral arguments by attorneys, is granted in about 100 cases per Term. Formal written opinions are delivered in 80 to 90 cases. Approximately 50 to 60 additional cases are disposed of without granting plenary review. The publication of a Term's written opinions, including concurring opinions, dissenting opinions, and orders, approaches 5,000 pages.

Article: The Justices' Caseload - ...
Source: Supreme Court of the Unit...
Eric Jokl

Eric Jokl

2 Knowledge Cards 

The Rule of Four is a custom of the Court that cases will be heard when certiorari is granted by four of the nine justices. This prevents the majority from controlling the Court's docket. Over 99% of cases submitted to the Supreme Court are reviewed and denied cert.


regional courts of appeals continue to operate under stress because filings have, for the most part, continued to rise. Filings per year per judge--which had jumped from 73 in 1950 to 137 in 1978 --only continued to increase--to 194 in 1984 and 300 in 1997. Although filings are down from their peak in 2006, they still remain quite high--at 335 filings per judge...

Article: The Mechanics of Federal ...
Source: Duke Law Journal

The Constitution states that the Supreme Court has both original and appellate jurisdiction. Original jurisdiction means that the Supreme Court is the first, and only, Court to hear a case. The Constitution limits original jurisdiction cases to those involving disputes between the states or disputes arising among ambassadors and other high-ranking ministers. Appellate jurisdiction means that the Court has the authority to review the decisions of lower courts. Most of the cases the Supreme Court hears are appeals from lower courts.

Article: U.S. Supreme Court Proced...
Source: U.S. Supreme Court Proced...

The Federal Circuit is unique among the thirteen Circuit Courts of Appeals. It has nationwide jurisdiction in a variety of subject areas, including international trade, government contracts, patents, trademarks, certain money claims against the United States government, federal personnel, veterans' benefits, and public safety officers' benefits claims. Appeals to the court come from all federal district courts, the United States Court of Federal Claims, the United States Court of International Trade, and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

Article: Court Jurisdiction

There is an institutional preference for a trial court's rulings and findings in the U. S. judicial system...

Article: Appeals
Source: Gale Encyclopedia of Ever...

In the federal system, courts are organized both by locality and by hierarchy (district court, court of appeals, and federal supreme court). At the lowest level are the district courts, which adjudicate basic civil and criminal proceedings.

Article: The Court and Law Enforce...
Source: Crime and Punishment: Ess...
Eric Jokl

Eric Jokl

2 Knowledge Cards 

Federal District Courts have subject matter jurisditions in cases involving federal questions (federal statute, a treaty, the Constitution or any state law claim arising from the same set of operative facts as a claim based on the aforementioned sources of law) or diversity of citizenship (civil case where the parties of citizens of different states or non-U.S. citizens).


The federal court system is divided into 12 geographic circuits. For example, Circuit One includes the New England states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Circuit Nine includes seven states in the far western part of the country.

Article: The Structure of the Fede...
Source: US History -

The Obama administration stipulated the incontestable to a disgruntled federal court on Thursday, formally declaring that “the power of the courts to review the constitutionality of legislation is beyond dispute.”

Article: Obama Concedes That Court...
Source: The New York Times

The judiciary act of 1789, which gave life to Article III, originated in the Senate. The act provided for an elaborate system of federal courts, created the office of attorney general, and in Section 25 authorized the Supreme Court to review on appeal decisions of state courts concerning questions of federal law involving the United States Constitution and the laws and treaties made under it.

Article: Constitutional History, 1...
Source: Encyclopedia of the Ameri...

The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

Article: Article III
Source: Article III | U.S. Consti...
Eric Jokl

Eric Jokl

2 Knowledge Cards 

Article III Section 1 established the federal court system, often referred to as article III courts. The compostion and procedures of the courts were left up to Congress.