Art AMERICAN CIVIL PROCEDURE (AN INTRODUCTION) I) General Description of Court Systems The U.S. court system consists of fifty state court systems plus a similar system for the District of Columbia and a separate system of federal courts. The federal courts and most state court systems are organized into trial courts (the U.S. District Courts in the federal system), intermediate appellate courts (a losing litigant in a federal district court generally may appeal a final decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the circuit in which the district court is located), and a Supreme Court. There are today 91 judicial districts in the United States, each having its own court. Additionally, there are districts courts for Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Every state, as well as the District of Columbia, has at least one judicial district, and many larger states are divided into two or three, or even (in the cases of Texas, New York, and California) four judicial districts. Congress’ decision to divide a particular state into more than one judicial district depends on population, geography, and caseload. At present there are eleven numbered circuits, each embracing a largely geographically contiguous area, including anywhere form three to ten states and territories. In addition, there is a Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which hears appeals from the federal district court there, and one for the Federal Circuit, which handles appeals on certain matters, such as patent disputes, and from various specialized federal tribunals, such as the Court of Federal Claims. At the apex of the federal court system is the Supreme Court of the United States, composed of nine justices. Unless disqualified or ill, all of the justices participate in each decision of the Court. Most cases reach the Court on discretionary writs of certiorari from the United States Courts of Appeals or the highest courts of the states. The federal courts have limited jurisdiction; they may only hear cases raising a federal question or cases based on diversity of citizenship where a substantial sum is at stake. State courts, in contrast, can hear practically any sort of case, including most cases involving federal claims. With respect to state law, the individual state supreme courts have the final authority. As to federal issues (including constitutional ones), state courts are subject to the oversight of the United States Supreme Court. The diversity of U.S. court systems poses a problem for a comparative analysis. II) The Appointment of Judges Justices of the Supreme Court, the circuit courts of appeals, and the district courts are appointed by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the Senate. These are life appointments and can only be removed through impeachment by the Congress for "high crimes and misdemeanors." There is no statutory qualification for judicial appointment to the Supreme Court or the lower federal courts. The process of appointment of a federal judge starts from a judicial vacancy. A vacancy occurs when a judge dies, resigns, is impeached by Congress, or where a new position is created by Congress. Congress is involved throughout the process of appointment of federal judges1, including both in the selection of candidates and confirmation of nominations. Congress's Specifically, the Senate is involved while the House of Representatives has no formal role in appointment of judges. 1
influence in the selection of potential candidates lies in its capacity to make recommendations. As a general rule, in the United States judges do not specialize in specific subject matters. American judges are lawyers who have been appointed to the bench. They still think of themselves as lawyers, and they often go back to being lawyers after they resign from the bench. In the United States, lawyers and judges are divisions of a single legal profession and are separated from...
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