United States Court Of Appeals

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.

See Also

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.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of United States Court of Appeals from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

United States Court Of Appeals: 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 United States Court Of Appeals. This part provides references, in relation to United States Court Of Appeals, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about United States Court Of Appeals 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 United States Court Of Appeals 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 United States Court Of Appeals 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 United States Court Of Appeals 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 United States Court Of Appeals. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about United States Court Of Appeals 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 United States Court Of Appeals when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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