The government of the United States is divided into three branches, the executive, the legislative and the judicial. The judicial branch is a system of courts that have jurisdiction over disputes between the individual states and issues that affect the nation at large. The federal courts often decide cases that arise from the state court system.
The Judicial Branch of U.S. Government
Most people are familiar with the tasks of the Supreme Court, but the federal court system also contains a number of other courts. These sub-groups include the U.S. district courts, the U.S. Court of Appeals, U.S. Tax Court, U. S. International Trade Court, U.S. Bankruptcy Court and a number of other courts for specialized subjects. These courts are divided by jurisdiction. These courts function in addition to matters under the state court system and sometimes become the final decision-maker on cases that arise from state jurisdiction disputes.
The Constitution of the United States gives a great deal of leeway in determining the extent of the federal court system. It gives Congress the power to determine the shape and structure of the judicial branch. The Constitution does, however, give the Supreme Court original jurisdiction over other courts. In the past, the Supreme Court has had as few as 6 members.
The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court is the highest authority in the land. It is not an elected body. Justices are nominated by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Congress for a life term. The Supreme Court is essentially an appeals court, in that decisions made by lower courts can be appealed to this court for a final decision. Its task is to interpret the meaning and extent of laws that created by the Congress, as well as the states. The Supreme Court does not accept all cases, however. They carefully consider the importance of the case and whether it has a wider impact that should be heard for the good of the nation. Attorneys argue cases before the court after which the justices carefully consider the legal points under existing law. They then write individual papers that explain the reasoning for their vote. This process ensures that that Supreme Court has a sound legal basis for its decisions.
Federal District Courts
The judicial system of the U.S. government also contains a number of lower courts. The federal district courts are the trial courts that have the jurisdiction to hear federal cases of both a civil and criminal nature. People across the nation have an opportunity to participate in the decision on these cases that are presided over by federal judges. The United States and some overseas countries under U.S. control are divided into 94 federal judicial districts. These courts handle cases that fit under a variety of federal laws.
Other Divisions Under the Federal System
A number of special courts are also included in the U.S. federal court system, including the U.S. Court for Federal Claims, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the U.S Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and the U.S. Tax Court. In addition, the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, the Federal Judicial Center and the U.S. Sentencing Commission are under the federal judicial system.
The complex system of judicial courts serves to bring justice to the people of the United States in a standardized and reliable fashion. Though not always responsible for perfect outcomes, the judicial system of America remains among the most respected in the world.