The federal court system wields its authority through the
United States Federal District Courts (including Federal Magistrates), the United States Circuit Courts of
Appeals and ultimately, the Supreme Court of the United
States. Federal courts generally resolve disputes arising
over the application of federal laws or federal agency regulations.
The 94 US District
Courts are courts of general or unlimited trial jurisdiction, meaning it can decide almost any dispute brought properly before. This is the first
rung of the federal court structure. In this court, litigants are entitled to a federal jury trial. Cases
can originate in District Courts or come from federal agencies, or from the state courts.
The US Circuit Court of
Appeals is a court unlimited jurisdiction, that is,
able to decide most any dispute emerging from a district court in its geographic region or circuit. There
are 13 US Circuit Courts of Appeal.
Increasingly, federal and state courts are finding that
their authorities are beginning to overlap as more and more laws and regulations emerge with dual
jurisdictions. In these instances, the doctrine of preemption will cede jurisdiction to the
federal court where federal law will be applied. Examples of such cases might include environmental
protection standards, food and drug regulations, employment fairness issues or consumer