District Court

District Court in the United States

The federal trial court of general jurisdiction. District courts are the primary federal courts of original jurisdiction, disposing of about 300,000 cases per year. The jurisdiction of the district courts, defined pursuant to Article III, includes all federal criminal cases, civil actions arising under the federal Constitution, statutes, treaties if the amount in controversy exceeds $10,000, cases involving citizens of different states (with the same $10,000 minimum), admiralty and maritime cases, and review of certain administrative agency orders. A portion of district court cases (about 15 percent) are criminal, but most criminal prosecutions occur in state courts. The remaining cases on district court dockets are civil. Three categories of civil matters stand out. A large number of cases involve application of the U.S. Constitution or federal statutes. These cases may have substantial public policy consequences. This category includes cases involving protection of civil rights. Second, there are the diversity jurisdiction cases where parties from more than one state are involved. Third are the prisoner petitions. In these cases, state and federal prisoners assert that their imprisonment violates some constitutionally protected right. Most of these cases come through the court’s power to issue writs of habeas corpus. Congress may alter the jurisdiction of the district courts. All district judges are appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate and possess life tenure.

See Also

Magistrate (Judicial Organization);

Original Jurisdiction (Judicial Organization) Territorial Court (Judicial Organization) (Judicial Organization) Three-Judge District Court (Judicial Organization) (Judicial Organization).

Analysis and Relevance

The United States District Court (U.S.)s conduct the great majority of business in the federal judicial system. As a result, they are designed to be the principal points of entry into the federal system. Each state has at least one district court with some of the larger and more populous states having as many as four. There are 89 district courts in the 50 states plus one for the District of Columbia and one for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. There are also Territorial Court (U.S.)s in Guam, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Unlike district court judges, territorial judges serve eight-year terms and handle, in addition to federal matters, local issues that would normally fall to a state court. The district courts vary in size, ranging from one to 30 judges depending on the caseload of the court. Congress may add district court judgeships at its discretion. Currently there are nearly 600 district court judges. Cases decided by the district courts may be appealed to the court of appeals for the appropriate circuit, although certain cases are taken to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of District Court from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Concept of District Court

In the U.S., in the context of Judiciary power and branch, District Court has the following meaning: Federal trial courts of original jurisdiction, first established by Congress in the Judiciary Act of 1789 and expanded since then, as constitutional courts. (Source of this definition of District Court : University of Texas)

District Court


See Also

  • Judiciary Power
  • Judiciary Branch

District Court: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about District Court. This part provides references, in relation to District Court, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about District Court by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about District Court and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about District Court or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to District Court and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting District Court. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about District Court should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to District Court when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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