United States Government/The Judicial Branch

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Contents Colonial America - Articles of Confederation - The Constitutional Convention - Ratification - The Three Branches - The Federal System - General Provisions - The Bill of Rights - The Later Amendments - Legislative Branch - Executive Branch - Judicial Branch

The Courts[edit]

The United States judicial system includes the Supreme Court of the United States and the inferior federal courts. The President nominates an individual to serve as a judge, after which the Senate must grant its advice and consent before the President can formally appoint the judge. A judge holds office during "good behavior", which is usually interpreted as meaning a life term.

The Supreme Court[edit]

The Constitution creates the Supreme Court, but permits Congress to set the number of Justices. Currently, the Supreme Court includes the Chief Justice of the United States and eight Associate Justices. The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over limited categories of cases, such as cases between two or more states. It hears most of its cases through its appellate jurisdiction, in which it hears appeals from lower federal and state courts. It exercises its appellate jurisdiction selectively; four of the nine Justices must grant a writ of certiorari before a case can be heard.

The Court of Appeals[edit]

The United States is divided into twelve regional circuits, each of which has a Court of Appeal. Additionally, there is a Federal Circuit which hears appeals from certain special tribunals and courts. The regional circuits (which are officially known by a number only, except for the DC circuit) are as follows:

  • District of Columbia
  • First Circuit- Northern New England (Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island plus the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico)
  • Second Circuit- Southern New England (Vermont, New York, and Connecticut)
  • Third Circuit- Middle Atlantic (Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey plus US Territory Virgin Islands)
  • Fourth Circuit- Upper Southeast (Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina)
  • Fifth Circuit- Deep South (Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi)
  • Sixth Circuit- Eastern Great Lakes (Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee)
  • Seventh Circuit- Western Great Lakes (Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana)
  • Eighth Circuit- Midwest (Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska)
  • Ninth Circuit- West (Alaska, Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, and Arizona plus US Territories Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands)
  • Tenth Circuit- Southwest (Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico)
  • Eleventh Circuit- Lower Southeast (Alabama, Georgia, and Florida)

Each Court of Appeal includes a different number of members. The First Circuit has the fewest with six members, while the Ninth Circuit has the most with twenty-eight.

District Court[edit]

Every state is divided into one or more Court Districts (which are distinct from Congressional districts). The total number of districts is ninety-four.

Each district court includes a different number of members. The Eastern and Western District of Kentucky, the Eastern District of Oklahoma, and the Northern, Eastern, and Western District of Oklahoma, each have the fewest number of judges with one, while the Central District of California has the most with twenty-seven.

Other Courts[edit]

The Congress has established special bankruptcy courts and other courts to rule on specific matters.


Contents Colonial America - Articles of Confederation - The Constitutional Convention - Ratification - The Three Branches - The Federal System - General Provisions - The Bill of Rights - The Later Amendments - Legislative Branch - Executive Branch - Judicial Branch