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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Star Athletica, L. L. C. v. Varsity Brands, Inc.

(United States Supreme Court) – In a copyright infringement suit brought by a company that owns 200 copyright registrations for two-dimensional designs–consisting of various lines, chevrons, and colorful shapes–appearing on the surface of cheerleading uniforms that they design, make, and sell, against a competitor who also markets cheerleading uniforms, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision finding the copyrights eligible for protection under 17 U.S.C. section 101, concluding that the graphics could be ‘identified separately’ and were ‘capable of existing independently’ of the uniforms, is affirmed where a feature incorporated into the design of a useful article is eligible for copyright protection only if the feature (1) can be perceived as a two- or three-dimensional work of art separate from the useful article, and (2) would qualify as a protectable pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work–either on its own or fixed in some other tangible medium of expression–if it were imagined separately from the useful article into which it is incorporated. That test is satisfied here.
FindLaw Opinion Summaries – United States Supreme Court

Who Are the Judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals? –
Who Are the Judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals?
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is the largest appellate court in the United States. It is so large, in fact, that Republican Senator Jeff Flake recently introduced a bill, the Judicial Administration and Improvement Act of 2017, which has the express
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Czyzewski v. Jevic Holding Corp.

(United States Supreme Court) – In consolidated appeals arising out of lawsuits filed against a Chapter 11 bankruptcy debtor that declared bankruptcy after it was purchased in a leveraged buyout, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision affirming the Bankruptcy Court’s approval of a settlement agreement, which called for a structured dismissal of debtor’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy, nonpayment of Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) claims, and payment to lower-priority general unsecured creditors — thereby violating the Bankruptcy Code’s priority rules by paying general unsecured claims ahead of WARN claims — is reversed where: 1) petitioners have Article III standing; and 2) Bankruptcy courts may not approve structured dismissals that provide for distributions that do not follow ordinary priority rules without the consent of affected creditors.
FindLaw Opinion Summaries – United States Supreme Court

Sheley v. Harrop

(California Court of Appeal) – In a dispute involving the control of a pest control company started by decedent, asserting causes of action to recover damages for conversion, breach of fiduciary duty, and aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty based on actions taken by defendant (decedent’s wife) in cooperation with the decedent, the trial court granted of defendant’s anti-SLAPP motion as to plaintiff’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claim is: 1) modified by granting defendants’ motion to strike the specific claims founded on allegations of protected activity in each remaining cause of action in the cross-complaint; and 2) otherwise affirmed as modified.
FindLaw Opinion Summaries – Civil Procedure