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U.S. Courts of Appeals


The U.S. Courts of Appeals are intermediate federal appellate courts. Created in 1891 pursuant to Article III of the U.S. Constitution, the courts relieve the U.S. Supreme Court from the burden

of handling all appeals from cases decided by federal trial (district) courts. These appellate courts have jurisdiction to review all final decisions and some interlocutory decisions of federal district courts. In addition, the courts review and enforce orders of numerous federal administrative bodies.

A typical appeal from a district court decision consists of the trial court record, oral arguments, and supporting briefs. A three-judge panel usually considers each appeal. A court may sit en banc, however—that is, with all judges of the circuit present. A decision by a court of appeals is final, unless the supreme court of the united states accepts the case for review.

Each state is assigned on the basis of its geographical location to one of eleven judicial circuits. The District of Columbia has its own circuit; U.S. territories are assigned to the first, third, and ninth circuits. The more than 175 circuit judges are appointed by the president, subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.

In addition to the twelve circuits, Congress created the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in 1982. This court is the successor to the former U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals and the U.S. Court of Claims. The court has nationwide jurisdiction and hears appeals from federal district courts in patent cases, contract cases, and certain other civil actions in which the United States is a defendant. It also hears appeals from the U.S. Court of International Trade, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, and the U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals. The court also reviews certain administrative rulings, rule making by the veterans affairsdepartment, and certain decisions by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Ethics, in addition to other matters.

further readings

Federal Court of Appeals Manual: Local Rules. 2000. St. Paul, Minn.: West Group.

Kuersten, Ashlyn K., and Donald R. Songer. 2001. Decisions on the U.S. Courts of Appeals. New York: Garland.

U.S. Courts. Available online at <> (accessed February 24, 2004).


Federal Courts.

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