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.

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Circuit Courts Divided Following Seventh Circuit’s Section 546(e) Safe Harbor Decision –

Circuit Courts Divided Following Seventh Circuit's Section 546(e) Safe Harbor Decision
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On July 26, 2016, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that the Bankruptcy Code section 546(e) "safe harbor" applicable to constructive fraudulent transfers that are settlement payments made in connection with …

united states circuit court – Google News

Nowakowski v. New York

(United States Second Circuit) – In a habeas corpus action challenging petitioner’s conviction for second-degree harassment, the district court’s dismissal of the petition as moot is vacated and the case remanded where: 1) petitioner was ‘in custody’ for the purposes of habeas review while under a sentence of conditional discharge that obligated him to appear in specific places at specific times and subjected him to the discretion of the court; and 2) petitioner’s conviction is criminal for the purposes of the presumption of continuing collateral consequences under Sibron v. New York, 392 U.S. 49 (1968), and the government did not rebut that presumption.
FindLaw Opinion Summaries – Criminal

Bibiano v. Lynch

(United States Ninth Circuit) – In an immigration action, arising after an earlier in absentia removal order was issued for petitioner in California before her removal proceedings were completed in Georgia years later, the court held that: 1) the venue provision of 8 U.S.C. section 1252(b)(2) is not jurisdictional; 2) venue is proper in the Eleventh Circuit as removal proceedings were completed there; but 3) the government’s motion to transfer venue is denied in the interest of justice, so as to conserve judicial resources. The case was remanded to the Board of Immigration Appeals to revisit the merits of petitioner’s reasonable fear of persecution argument.
FindLaw Opinion Summaries – Civil Procedure

Santiago-Ramos v. Autoridad de Energia Electrica de Puerto Rico

(United States First Circuit) – In a public utilities class action, contending that defendant power company (PREPA)’s subsidized municipalities’ private use of power in violation of Puerto Rico law, the district court’s grant of summary judgment to defendant is affirmed where plaintiffs’ lack of a valid protected interest in the electricity consumed by the municipalities or the funds paid to PREPA deprive them of standing to bring takings or due process claims.
FindLaw Opinion Summaries – Class Action