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. Arias

(United States First Circuit) – Convictions and sentence for possession of heroin with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. section 841(a)(1), and conspiracy to distribute heroin, in violation of 21 U.S.C. section 846, are affirmed where: 1) there was no pretrial error; 2) the district court did not commit any errors at trial; and 3) defendant’s challenge to his sentence fails because the district court’s findings more than suffice to justify its determination that defendant was responsible for conspiring to distribute between 400 grams and 700 grams of heroin.
FindLaw Opinion Summaries – Criminal

Argentieri v. Zuckerberg

(California Court of Appeal) – In a defamation suit brought by an attorney for Paul Ceglia throughout Ceglia’s lawsuit against Facebook, Inc. and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, the trial court’s grant of defendants’ motion to strike plaintiff’s complaint under the anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) statute, Code Civ. Proc. section 425.16, is affirmed where: 1) although the statement underlying plaintiff’s defamation claim was not subject to the litigation privilege of Civil Code section 47(b), it was subject to the fair and true reporting privilege of Civil Code section 47(d); and, thus 2) plaintiff has no probability of prevailing on his claim.
FindLaw Opinion Summaries – Civil Procedure

Court Refuses to Reinstate Travel Ban, Dealing Trump Another Legal Loss –

New York Times
Court Refuses to Reinstate Travel Ban, Dealing Trump Another Legal Loss
New York Times
WASHINGTON — A federal appeals panel on Thursday unanimously rejected President Trump's bid to reinstate his ban on travel into the United States from seven largely Muslim nations, a sweeping rebuke of the administration's claim that the courts have
Federal appeals court rules 3 to 0 against Trump on travel banWashington Post
9th Circuit Court of Appeals to hear challenge to Trump's ban TuesdayCNN
Appeals court: Decision on Trump travel ban coming ThursdayFox17
Reuters –Boing Boing –ThinkProgress –
all 6,254 news articles »

united states court of appeals – Google News

Carmichael v. Chappius

(United States Second Circuit) – In a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. section 2254, the district court’s grant of the petition, on grounds that the New York State Appellate Division’s judgment affirming the state trial court’s denial of petitioner’s Batson challenge was an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent, is vacated where: 1) the district court incorrectly applied the standard for evaluating a state court’s rulings set forth in the Anti‐Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, 28 U.S.C. section 2254(d); and 2) the Appellate Division’s order affirming the state trial court’s denial of petitioner’s Batson challenge was not an unreasonable application of ‘clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.’ 28 U.S.C. section 2254(d).
FindLaw Opinion Summaries – Criminal

Southern California Sunbelt Developers, Inc. v. Banyan Limited Partnership

(California Court of Appeal) – In the seventh appeal to arise out of a highly complex 20-plus year multi-phase litigation, this time involving the issue whether the trial court had authority to award approximately $ 281,000 in receivership fees to one of the prevailing parties under Code of Civil Procedure section 1033.5(c), the trial court’s order granting the motion to tax costs is reversed where the court retained authority to exercise its discretion and consider whether the receivership fee should be paid by one party or shared between the parties.
FindLaw Opinion Summaries – Civil Procedure

Flo & Eddie, Inc. v. Sirius XM Radio, Inc.

(United States Second Circuit) – In a copyright infringement suit brought by the company that owns the recordings of the Turtles, a well-known rock band with a string of hits in the 1960s, on behalf of itself and a class of owners of pre-1972 recordings against largest radio and internet-radio broadcaster in the U.S., the district court’s denial of defendant’s motions for summary judgment and reconsideration is reversed where, in response to questions certified to the New York Court of Appeals, New York common law does not recognize a right of public performance for creators of pre-1972 sound recordings.
FindLaw Opinion Summaries – Class Action