2 U.S. District CourtsMost federal cases are handled in the 94 US district courtsDistrict Courts: Federal courts where trials are held and lawsuits are begunEvery state has at least one district courtAll cases must begin in a district court because they have original jurisdiction, the authority to hear cases for the first time.Responsible for determining the facts of a case and are trial courts for both criminal and civil federal cases.They are the only federal courts in which witnesses testify, juries hear cases, and reach verdicts
3 U.S. Courts of AppealsIf someone loses their case in a district court they can appeal to the next highest level, a US Court of AppealsAppeals Courts: courts that review decisions made in lower district courtsAppellate Jurisdiction: the authority of a court to hear a case appealed from a lower courtLawyers appeal if: they think the law was applied incorrectly, used the wrong procedures, or if new evidence turns up.May also review federal regulatory agency rulings if the people involved believe the agency acted unfairlyThere are 12 US courts of appeals and each covers a circuit, particular geographic area.The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is a 13th appeals court that has nationwide jurisdiction for special cases such as those involving patent law or international trade.
4 Making a Decision in Appellate Courts Appeals courts make decisions in one of three ways:Uphold the original decisionReverse the original decisionRemand: send the case back to the lower court to be tried againA panel of three or more judges reviews the record of the case and listens to arguments from both sidesJudges then meet and make a decision by majority voteJudges do not decide innocence or guilt.They only rule on whether the defendant’s rights have been protected and on whether he or she received a fair trial.In a majority of cases this decision is final however, the decision can be appealed to the Supreme Court
5 Announcing an Appeals Court Decision When an appeals court makes a decision one judge writes an opinion.Opinion: offers a detailed explanation of the legal thinking behind the court’s decisionOpinion sets a precedent for all courts and agencies within the districtPrecedent: gives guidance to other judges by offering a model upon which to base their own decisions on similar casesPrecedent does not have the force of law, but is a very powerful argument to use in court
6 DOLGiven the information on US District and Appeals Courts students will create a T-chart that compares the two types of courts