United States Court of Appeals
The intermediate appellate court of the federal judicial system. The U.S. Court of Appeals was established by Congress in 1891 to provide a first appellate review of cases brought from federal trial courts and certain administrative agencies. The objective was to decrease the number of cases seeking appellate review from the Supreme Court. These courts were first called the circuit courts of appeal. The United States is divided geographically into 12 regions called judicial circuits. Each state is assigned to one of 11 circuits. The twelfth is a separate circuit for the District of Columbia. All appeals from lower courts within one of these regions go to the court of appeals for that circuit. The cases reviewed by the court of appeals come almost exclusively from the U.S. district courts. The exception is the court of appeals in the District of Columbia, where almost half of the cases originate with federal administrative agencies. Accordingly, the types of cases on the dockets will closely reflect the activities of the district courts. Territorial Courts are assigned to specific circuits as well. There is also a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which has national jurisdiction over highly specialized substantive matters such as patent and copyright issues and over rulings of such agencies as the International Trade Commission and the Merit System Protection Board.
Appellate Jurisdiction (Judicial Organization) Constitutional Court (Judicial Organization) Intermediate Appellate Court (Judicial Organization) Mandatory Jurisdiction (Judicial Organization), 275; United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Judicial Organization) (Judicial Organization).
Analysis and Relevance
The United States Court of Appeals reviews issues of law in more than 30,000 cases annually. As an appellate court, the court of appeals engages in law interpretation and has substantial policy impact. The court has no authority to hear a case in the first instance and has Mandatory Jurisdiction (U.S.) on cases seeking review. That is, it cannot refuse to hear any case seeking appeal. The courts were established by Congress under authority from Article III, making this a constitutional court. It was first empowered to screen cases for the Supreme Court. That screening function has been performed, and only a relatively small proportion of cases decided by the court of appeals seeks further review from the Supreme Court. Although some of the court's cases do proceed to the Supreme Court, the court of appeals is typically the point of both first and final appellate review for most cases. Court of appeals judges are appointed for life by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate. Each circuit has from 4 to 23 permanent judges, depending on case demand. Each of the courts usually reviews cases in divisions or panels of three judges, but will occasionally sit en banc with all the judges in the circuit participating.