The United States Court System

Subject: Law
Pages: 2
Words: 650
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: College

The court system is part of the judiciary branch of government. The judiciary branch, in its turn, is equaled to the other two branches, which are the legislative and executive ones. The main task of the judiciary branch is to interpret the laws and apply them to solve conflicts and law violations.

The Levels of the System of the Federal Court

The system of the Federal Court can be divided into three levels. According to the United States Department of Justice (n.d.), the first one includes district courts (which are also called trial courts). At the second level, there are circuit courts, where the decisions of trial courts can be appealed. The third level is presented by the Supreme Court if the U.S. Each level has its own features and functions.

District Courts

District courts serve as the general trial courts, handling both criminal and civil cases. In each court there is a US District Judge, which is confirmed by the Senate. The judge is appointed for a life term by the President. The district court judge is responsible for the supervision of court employees and for the court management (Department of Justice, n.d.). Although the judge is appointed for the life term, they can be impeached in case of violations.

Some responsibilities of the district judge are shared among federal magistrate judges. However, according to Chesley (2016), in small districts there is no any formal system of assignment of responsibilities of a district judge to magistrate judges. Magistrates are appointed for an eight-year term by a majority of judges. An eight-year period is the full-time one, whereas there is also an option of a part-time period of four years. After the end of the term, the judge can be reappointed again. The judges can handle all types of cases, both criminal and civil ones. For example, a magistrate judge can deal with arrest warrants, set bail, conduct initial hearings, and decide some motions, such as evidence suppression.

Circuit Courts

After the case was handled in a district court, it can be appealed in the United States Court of Appeal. In the US, there are twelve circuits that belong to different districts. The number of judges in the circuit varies depending on the particular court. For example, in the Ninth Circuit there are twenty-nine judges, whereas in the First Circuit there are nine of them (Department of Justice, n.d.).

The circuit courts can also hold a process which is called “en banc hearing.” This process is more significant than a usual hearing, and it is decided only after a panel decision upon the case.

U.S. Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest judicial instance in the United States. It deals with all cases related to the federal law. It has the power to handle the appeals on the cases brought into a federal or a state court. The Court members are called “justices”, and there are nine of them on the court. Eight justices are associate, and one justice is the chief one. The court members are appointed for the life term by the President. In order to ask the court to hold a case, parties should file a “writ of certiorari” (Department of Justice, n.d.). If it is granted, the court conducts a hearing. In case the writ is not provided, then the decision of the previous court stands.


The judicial system of the US includes three levels of courts. They are district courts, circuit courts, and the Supreme Court. All the courts have their own peculiarities and the system of appeal. District courts deal with the cases at the lowest level. Federal circuits can hold the cases that were appealed after the hearing in a trial court. The US Supreme Court is the highest court in the country. Thus, the system of courts in the U.S. is distributed into different levels in order to be effective.


Chesley, A. (2016). The scope of United States magistrate judge authority after Stern V. Marshall. Columbia Law Review, 116(3), 757–804.

United States Department of Justice (n.d.). Introduction to the Federal Court System. Offices of the United States Attorneys.