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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US v. Fryberg

(United States Ninth Circuit) – Conviction for possession of a firearm by a prohibited person in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 922(g)(8) is affirmed where: 1) a return of service that the Government used to prove that the defendant had been served with notice of a hearing on a domestic violence protection order was admissible under the public record exception to hearsay in Fed. R. Evid. 803(8)(A)(ii); and 2) that admission of the return of service did not violate the defendant’s rights under the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment.
FindLaw Opinion Summaries – Criminal

Jackson v. Mayweather

(California Court of Appeal) – In a suit brought following the break up of plaintiff’s relationship with a former boxing champion, alleging invasion of privacy (both public disclosure of private facts and false light portrayal), defamation and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, based on defendant’s social media postings about the termination of plaintiff’s pregnancy and its relationship to the couple’s separation and his comments during a radio interview concerning the extent to which plaintiff had undergone cosmetic surgery procedures, the trial court’s denial of defendant’s special motion to strike those causes of action pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 is reversed as to with respect to plaintiff’s claims for defamation and false light portrayal, as well as her cause of action for public disclosure of private facts based on defendant’s comments about plaintiff’s cosmetic surgery. In all other respects, the judgment is affirmed.
FindLaw Opinion Summaries – Civil Procedure

Dunson v. Cordis Corp.

(United States Ninth Circuit) – In a mass action in which defendant invoked the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA) mass action provision as the basis for removing to federal court eight products liability suits filed against it in state court, the district court’s judgment, holding that removal jurisdiction does not exist under CAFA’s mass action provision and remanding the cases to state court, is affirmed where: 1) plaintiffs requested consolidation for purposes of pretrial proceedings, standing alone, does not trigger removal jurisdiction under CAFA’s mass action provision; and 2) plaintiffs also requested consolidation for purposes of establishing a bellwether-trial process, but nothing they said indicated that they were referring to a bellwether trial whose results would have preclusive effect on the plaintiffs in the other cases.
FindLaw Opinion Summaries – Class Action

Arkansas Puts Ledell Lee to Death, in Its First Execution Since 2005

Washington Post
Arkansas Puts Ledell Lee to Death, in Its First Execution Since 2005
New York Times
Ledell Lee in Pulaski County Circuit Court in Little Rock, Ark., on Tuesday. … The United States Supreme Court, as well as a federal appeals court in St. Louis, issued temporary stays of execution while they considered his legal arguments. In Little
Arkansas carries out first execution since 2005 after Supreme Court denies stay requestsWashington Post
Timeline of Execution LawsuitsKATV
Arkansas conducts first execution since 2005, plans 3 morePress of Atlantic City
KTLA –Arkansas Online –Pacific Standard
all 543 news articles »

united states circuit court – Google News

Nelson v. Colorado

(United States Supreme Court) – In actions brought by two inmates with invalidated convictions, challenging Colorado’s Compensation for Certain Exonerated Persons statute (Exoneration Act), Colo. Rev. Stat. sections 13-65-101, 13-65-102 and 13-65-103, which provide the exclusive authority for refunds of inmate accounts, the Colorado Supreme Court’s judgment in favor of the State and upholding the Exoneration Act is reversed where the Exoneration Act’s scheme does not comport with the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of due process.
FindLaw Opinion Summaries – United States Supreme Court