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Federal Courts


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 protections.

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