Research Guides

TMLL Research Guide - Chapter 10


FEDERAL COURT SYSTEM


United States Supreme Court

  • Highest level appellate court.
  • Reviews, inter alia, cases of constitutionality of state statutes, and cases involving constitutionality and interpretation of federal statutes.

Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal

  • Federal appellate level courts.
  • The United States is divided into eleven numbered circuits and a Federal and a District of Columbia Circuit, each with a Circuit Court of Appeal.
  • The map of the federal circuits can be found at http://www.uscourts.gov/links.html.

Federal District Courts.

  • Federal trial courts.
  • All states have at least one; larger states have several, divided by geographic district within the state (e.g., the Western District of Pennsylvania).

Many issues before federal courts deal with application and interpretation of federal legislation. Often a circuit split can occur, meaning the circuits diverge in matters of their interpretation. Circuits frequently look to each other’s opinions as persuasive authority and often consensus will emerge; if not, the U.S. Supreme Court may grant certiorari to resolve a split in the circuits.

Federal courts may hear cases on state law issues under diversity jurisdiction. In such cases, the federal courts look to opinions of the highest court of the state as mandatory authority.

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