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Law: Federal Court System

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Federal Court System

Federal Court System HierarchyThe federal court system is made up of three levels.  The U.S. District Courts are the lowest level of federal courts.  Each state has at least one district court and some states have three or four.  In total, there are 94 U.S. District Courts.  Usually, cases involving federal laws begin at this level of court. 

Decisions made in the district courts may be appealed if one party is dissatisfied with the outcome; these appeals are heard in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.  There are 13 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the United States: 11 regional circuit courts, a federal circuit court, and a circuit court in Washington D.C. 

The highest court in the country is the United States Supreme Court. Usually the Supreme Court hears cases that have been appealed by a party from one of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, however, lower courts such as a distrcit court or even a state supreme court may petition to have the Supreme Court hear their case.  The Supreme Court does not hear all of these cases, in fact, the Supreme Court hears only a small fraction of the cases with which they are presented.