United States federal judicial circuits

United States federal judicial circuits

Congress has divided the United States into a number of judicial circuits, each of which includes several District Courts and a Court of Appeals to decide appeals from cases decided in the district courts within the circuit.

There are currently eleven numbered circuits, and one for the District of Columbia that decides appeals from the district court in Washington, D.C. There is also a United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which does not have any geographical circuit, but hears appeals from any District Court in cases relating to patents. It also decides appeals from the specialized trial courts in a few areas, including federal claims, international trade, and veterans' rights.

The circuits, and the states and territories within their jurisdiction, are:


The Judiciary Act of 1789 established three circuits, which were groups of judicial districts in which United States circuit courts were established. Each circuit court consisted of two Supreme Court justices and the local district judge; the three circuits existed solely for the purpose of assigning the justices to a group of circuit courts. Some districts (generally the ones most difficult for an itinerant justice to reach) did not have a circuit court; in these districts the district court exercised the original jurisdiction of a circuit court. As new states were admitted to the Union, Congress often did not create circuit courts for them for a number of years.

The Judiciary Act of 1801 reorganized the districts into six circuits, and created circuit judgeships so that Supreme Court justices would no longer have to ride circuit. This Act, however, was repealed in March 1802, and Congress provided that the former circuit courts would be revived as of July 1 of that year. But it then passed the new Judiciary Act of 1802 in April, so that the revival of the old courts never took effect. The 1802 Act restored circuit riding, but with only one justice to a circuit; it therefore created six new circuits, but with slightly different compositions than the 1801 Act. These six circuits later were augmented by others. Until 1866, each new circuit (except the short-lived California Circuit) was accompanied by a newly-created Supreme Court seat.


#The Judiciary Act of 1789 divided Massachusetts into the Maine District, comprising what is now the State of Maine, and the Massachusetts District, comprising the remainder of the state.
#The Judiciary Act of 1789 divided Virginia into the Kentucky District, comprising what is now the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and the Virginia District, comprising the remainder of the state.
#The first District of Ohio encompassed the Northwest and Indiana Territories.
#The pre-existing courts of the District of Columbia were elevated to United States district court and court of appeals status.
#The pre-existing territorial district court of Puerto Rico was elevated to United States district court status. Appellate jurisdiction from the Puerto Rico courts was assigned to the 1st Circuit in 1915.

External links

* [http://www.4lawschool.com/uscourts.htm Info about U.S. courts]
* [http://www.fjc.gov/history/home.nsf History of the Federal Judiciary] (Federal Judicial Center)

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