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Court of Appeal

COURT OF APPEAL

An intermediate federal judicial tribunal of review that is found in thirteen judicial districts, called circuits, in the United States.

A state judicial tribunal that reviews a decision rendered by an inferior tribunal to determine whether it made errors that warrant the reversal of its judgment.

u.s. courts of appeals were created by Congress in 1891 and were known until 1948 as U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals. Such courts have appellate jurisdiction over the majority of cases decided by U.S. District Courts except those cases in which the court has made an interlocutory order regarding an injunction; such cases are directly reviewable by thesupreme court of the united states. Federal courts of appeals are also empowered to review orders of many federal administrative agencies, such as the national labor relations board.

Cases before the court of appeals are usually heard by a panel of three judges, but in some circuit cases, actions involving significant constitutional questions are heard en banc, with all the judges serving on the court present to decide the case by a majority vote. In 1982 Congress enacted the Federal Courts Improvement Act (96 Stat. 25; 28 U.S.C.A. § 1 note) creating the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit which commenced hearing cases on October 1, 1982, and constitutes the thirteenth circuit in the United States. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit provides a national forum for the uniform application and enforcement of law in cases involving similar issues, particularly those involving patent and public contracts law, which in the past were often decided differently from circuit to circuit, necessitating appeal to the Supreme Court for a definitive answer. This court was established from the merger of the Federal Court of Claims and the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals. Although structurally similar to the 12 other courts of appeals, it differs from them in that its intermediate appellate jurisdiction is based upon subject matter, not geography, and it hears appeals from all federal circuits. This topical approach toward adjudication results from the new court assuming appellate jurisdiction from cases formerly brought before the Court of Claims and the Court of Patent Appeals. The court also entertains appeals from the Court of International Trade, the patent and trademark office, the merit systems protection board, and other agencies.

In some states, the court of appeals is an intermediate appellate tribunal that reviews the decisions of lower courts on appeal. Its decisions are, however, subject to review by the highest appellate tribunal in the state if the unsuccessful party files an appeal and the justices agree to hear the case. When the state court of appeals is the intermediate level of appellate review, it possesses mandatory jurisdiction; litigants have a statutory right to appeal their cases to it.

State courts of appeals are frequently courts of last resort when their decisions are final and are not subject to review by any other state tribunal. When it is the highest appellate court in the state, the court of appeals has discretionary jurisdiction; it selects the decisions it will review. If a case presents questions involving federal statutes or the Constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court might accept the case for review of the judgment rendered by the state courts of appeals.

There might be two separate systems of state courts of appeals: one for the review of civil cases and one for the appeal of criminal matters.

cross-references

Appellate Court; Federal Courts.

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