Circuit Courts vs. District Courts


In addition to the United States Supreme Court, the federal judiciary is comprised of District Courts and Circuit Courts (or Federal courts of appeals).

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, meaning they usually only hear cases authorized by the United States Constitution or federal statutes. There are exemptions to this such as cases entirely based on state law being brought to federal court under “diversity jurisdiction.” Diversity jurisdiction allows a plaintiff of one state to file a lawsuit in federal court when the defendant is located in a different state. In such cases, the “amount in controversy” must be more than $75,000. Criminal cases may not be brought under diversity jurisdiction.

District Courts are “lower” and have the responsibility for holding trials. Litigation goes first to the District Court level. Circuit Courts are appellate courts that do not hold trials but are for appeals for cases decided by the lower court. Several different district courts may fall under the same appellate (circuit) court. District courts hear both civil and criminal cases.

In a District Court case, only one judge is assigned to a case. There are 94 District Courts throughout the US and the associated territories, including Guam, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia and the Northern Mariana Islands.There are over 670 district court judges nationwide. Each federal district also has a bankruptcy court for those proceedings. Additionally, some courts have nationwide jurisdiction for issues such as tax (United States Tax Court), claims against the federal government (United States Court of Federal Claims), and international trade (United States Court of International Trade).

The Circuit Court System is smaller with only administrative regions. Many of the Circuit Court systems are spread over many buildings and cities. Circuit Court judges rotate through each of these regions in the “circuit.” Each case in circuit court has a panel of three judges. Though it’s rare, the entire circuit court may consider certain appeals in a process called an “en banc hearing.” The Ninth Circuit has a different process for en banc than the rest of the circuits.

read more

Leider v. Lewis

(Supreme Court of California) – In a taxpayer action seeking injunctive and declaratory under Code of Civil Procedure section 526a alleging claims of elephant abuse at the Los Angeles Zoo in violation of Penal Code section 596.5, the Court of Appeals’ judgment is reversed where: 1) the Court of Appeal’s earlier decision did not establish law of the case, and did not bar defendants’ new argument that the claim for equitable relief is precluded by Civil Code section 3369; and 2) the ‘as otherwise provided by law’ exception in section 3369 does not permit equitable relief in a taxpayer action seeking to restrain ‘illegal’ public expenditures under Code of Civil Procedure section 526a.
FindLaw Opinion Summaries – Criminal

Reich v. Lopez

(United States Second Circuit) – In a suit brought by a consulting firm specializing in fighting government corruption against a Venezuelan energy company, alleging plaintiffs were victims of an effort to discredit them by persons connected to a Venezuelan energy company that was in litigation with one of plaintiff’s clients, the district court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s RICO and state law claims against the principals of the Venezuelan energy company is affirmed where dismissal of the RICO claims under Rule 12(b)(6) was proper because plaintiff failed to allege that the defendants engaged in a ‘pattern of racketeering activity.’
FindLaw Opinion Summaries – Civil Procedure

Dreher v. Experian Information Solutions

(United States Fourth Circuit) – In an appeal of a class action judgment, hinging on whether the decision of credit reporter-defendant to list a defunct credit card company, rather than the name of its servicer, as a ‘source of . . . information’ on an individual’s credit report — without more — creates sufficient injury in fact under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) for purposes of Article III standing, 15 U.S.C. section 1681g(a)(2), the district court’s judgment in favor of plaintiffs is vacated where when an individual fails to allege a concrete injury stemming from allegedly incomplete or incorrect information listed on a credit report, he or she cannot satisfy the threshold requirements of constitutional standing.
FindLaw Opinion Summaries – Class Action

Appeals Court Will Not Reinstate Trump’s Revised Travel Ban – New York

New York Times
Appeals Court Will Not Reinstate Trump's Revised Travel Ban
New York Times
Protesters gathered outside the United States Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, across from the Virginia Capitol, in Richmond, before the court examined a ruling to block President Trump's travel ban earlier this month. Credit Steve Helber/Associated Press.
Federal Appeals Court Blocks Trump's 'Muslim Ban'ColorLines magazine
Fourth Circuit Court Of Appeals Refuses To Reinstate Trump's Travel MoratoriumTownhall
The 4th Circuit Court Of Appeals Has Ruled Against Reinstating Trump's Revised Travel BanUPROXX
Human Rights First –CNN –Washington Post –NPR
all 512 news articles »

united states court of appeals – Google News

Water Splash, Inc. v. Menon

(United States Supreme Court) – In an employer’s Texas state court action against a former employee who resided in Canada, alleging that defendant had begun working for a competitor while still employed by plaintiff, the Texas Court of Appeals’ decision reversing the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion to set aside the default judgment on the ground that she had not been properly served, is vacated where the Hague Service Convention does not prohibit service of process by mail.
FindLaw Opinion Summaries – United States Supreme Court

Fahie v. People of the Virgin Islands

(United States Third Circuit) – In a petition for writ of certiorari to review a Virgin Islands Supreme Court’s decision in a criminal matter in which petitioner was identified as the sole-shooter in a murder by a co-defendant that reached a plea deal with the government, the Court of Appeals holds: 1) the Court does have jurisdiction; 2) the V.I. Supreme Court’s ruling on the ‘aiding and abetting’ instruction was proper; and 3) certiorari was improvidently granted on the harmless error question.
FindLaw Opinion Summaries – Criminal