CHAPTER 18
FEDERAL COURT SYSTEM
Alexander Hamilton,
Federalist 22
“Laws are a dead letter without courts to
expound and define their true meaning and
operation”
Article III, Section I
“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 I, Section 8, Clause
9
Congress has the expressed power “to
constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme
Court.”
DUAL COURT SYSTEM
(Federalism)
1) National Judiciary
(Federal Court
System):
100+ courts
a. Supreme Court
b. Constitutional courts
c. Special courts
2) State Judiciary:
1000s of courts
 State courts hear most
of the cases.
Federal vs. State Courts
Judicial Branch Courts
FEDERAL COURTS
These are inferior courts (lower than Supreme
Court).
TWO TYPES
1. CONSTITUTIONAL COURTS
 Hear more cases than special courts
 Created out of Article III power
 Include 94 District Courts, 12 Court of Appeals, US
Court of International Trade, US Court of Appeals
for Federal Circuit
 AKA “Regular Courts”, “Article III Courts”

INFERIOR FEDERAL COURTS
Lower than the Supreme Court
TWO TYPES
1. CONSTITUTIONAL COURTS
 Hear more cases than special courts
 Created out of Article III power
 Include 94 U.S. District Courts, 12 U.S. Court
of Appeals
 AKA “Article III Courts”

FEDERAL COURTS CONTINUED
2. SPECIAL COURTS
*Have been created by Congress to deal with cases
arising out of one of Congress’ expressed powers
*AKA “Legislative Courts” or “Article I Courts”
*Include US Court of Federal Claims, Territorial
Courts, Courts of the District of Columbia, US tax
Court, US Court of Appeals for Armed Forces, US
Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims
Special Courts, continued
Include US Court of Federal Claims (you suing the federal
government)
Territorial Courts (land owned by U.S. like Guam)
Courts of the District of Columbia (court for people in D.C.)
US Tax Court (any violation of federal tax laws)
US Court of Appeals for Armed Forces (military has own set of
laws, so they need their own court – appeals from JAG)
US Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (if a veteran loses a
service, this is where they appeal their case – like Agent
Orange cases)
JURISDICTION
Definition:
 The authority or subject area that a court can
hear a case about.
 Example: Break a federal law, go to a federal
court (robbing a bank).
 Example: Break a state law, go to a state court
(speeding).
Types of Jurisdiction
1) Exclusive Jurisdiction - cases that can only be
heard in Federal Courts.
 Federal Crimes
 Examples: cases involving ambassadors, bank
robbery, kidnapping, presidential
assassination, killing a police officer,
destroying a mailbox-$1000 fine)
Types of Jurisdiction
1) Exclusive Jurisdiction - cases that can only be
heard in Federal Courts.
 Federal Crimes
 Examples: violations of patents and
copyrights, cases involving ambassadors
Types of Jurisdiction
1) Exclusive Jurisdiction - cases that can only be
heard in Federal Courts.
 Federal Crimes
 Examples: cases involving ambassadors, bank
robbery, kidnapping, presidential
assassination, killing a police officer,
destroying a mailbox-$1000 fine)
Types Of Jurisdiction, continued
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2) Concurrent Jurisdiction – cases can be tried in
either federal or state court.
A common type of concurrent jurisdiction: is
“Diverse Citizenship” –dispute involving citizens of
different states.
Federal District Courts may hear these if over
$75,000 is involved.
Defendant can have the trial moved from the
Plaintiff’s state to a federal district court.
Example: Land dispute between people from
different states.
CHRONOLOGY of Jurisdiction
1) Original jurisdiction - court where case is 1st
heard
2) Appellate jurisdiction – court where case is
heard 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. (on appeal from lower
court)
Jurisdiction
Of the Federal Courts –
1. U.S Supreme court has original and appellate
2. U.S Appeals courts have appellate
3. U.S District courts have original
US
Supreme Court
9 Justices
D.C.
Original and appellate
Fewest cases
80-150/year
US Court of Appeals
12 Courts (3 judge panel)
Boston, MA
Appellate
US District Court
94 Courts (judge and 2 types of juries:
1. grand - indicts
2. petit - determines guilty or innocence)
Portland, ME
Original
Most cases
APPOINTING JUDGES
Article II, Section II, Clause II – Supreme Court
appointment process
Says that “the President shall nominate and by and
with the advice and consent of the Senate shall
appoint…Judges of the Supreme Court.”
Appointing Judges, Continued
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If a state needs a new federal judge, the
President asks the Senator (same party) from
the state of the needed judge to recommend 3
candidates
Senatorial Courtesy – President will typically
choose that Senator’s 1st choice
Example: In Maine, Bush would ask Olympia
Snowe because she is the senior Senator
TERM and SALARY
For Constitutional Courts – LIFE
 Until judge resigns, retires, or dies
 Can be removed through impeachment (13
impeached, 7 of them removed)
Salary is set by Congress and can not be decreased
during their term in office.
A Supreme Court Justice’s salary is same as U.S.
Senators, Representatives, and the Vice President.
Court Officers
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Support Services
Clerks, baliffs, court reporters, stenographers,
probation officers, others
US Magistrates – officers of the court who are
appointed to 8-year terms and handle – arrest
warrants, set bail, and generally reduce the
workload for the judges
Court Officers
US Attorney for each Federal District
 President nominates and Senate approves
 They are the government’s prosecutors (lawyers)
 Work with the FBI, bring to trial people charged
with federal crimes
 Represent government in all civil actions brought by
or against the government in their district
 4-year term
 If I break a federal law, it would be the U.S. v
Crowley
Court Officers, continued
U.S. Marshall
 Could arrest you for breaking a federal law or
deliver you a warrant for breaking a federal
law
 Deals with riots, mobs, etc. 4-year term
 sent by Magistrate to arrest people
Layout of Courtroom
THE INFERIOR
COURTS
Courts below the Supreme Court
DISTRICT COURTS
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632 judges
Handle 300,000 cases a year
Created by Congress in the Judiciary Act of
1789
Currently 94 district courts
Maine’s District Court is located in Portland
It has 3 authorized judgeships
Federal Judicial Districts
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Include at least one district in each State, the
District of Columbia and Puerto Rico
Larger, more populous states are divided into
2 or more districts
2 judges assigned to each district (at least)
Cases tried in district courts heard by 1 judge
usually
DISTRICT COURT JURISDICTION
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Original jurisdiction
Making them the principal trial courts in the
federal court system
Criminal cases – when a defendant is tried for
committing some action that Congress has
declared by law to be a federal crime
Civil cases – noncriminal matter, terms of
contract, e.g
District Court Cases
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Bank robbery
Mail fraud
Counterfeiting
Tax evasion
Bankruptcy
Civil rights
Court of Appeals
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Created by Congress in 1892
Relieves the Supreme Court of burden of hearing all
appeals
Currently 12 courts of appeals
179 circuit judges
Our closest Court of Appeals is in Boston –
1st Circuit
Our district includes ME, MA, NH, RI, Puerto Rico
U.S. COURTS OF APPEALS
D.C
And
Federal
Circuit
Make 13
Appellate Court Jurisdiction
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Hear cases on appeals from lower fed. Courts
Also hear appeals from several federal
regulatory agencies like the Federal Trade
Commission, the national labor Relations
Board
55,000 cases a year
Court of International Trade
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Created in 1890
9 judges
Civil cases arising out of tariff and other
trade-related laws
Panels of 3
Trials often held at major port cities
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