U.S. District Courts | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee


Course: Introduction

U.S. District Courts are the trial courts of general jurisdiction in the federal court system.

Contrast with United States Courts of Appeal

U.S. District Courts are the trial courts of general jurisdiction in the federal court system. There are 94 district courts in the United States, each serving a specific geographic region. These courts hear both civil and criminal cases that fall under federal jurisdiction. Civil cases are disputes between private parties that involve a federal question or diversity of citizenship, while criminal cases are those in which the United States is a party or involve violations of federal criminal law.

Each district court is presided over by a district judge, who is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. District judges serve for life, which is intended to ensure their independence and impartiality. In addition to district judges, many district courts also have magistrate judges, who are appointed by the district judges and serve for a term of eight years. Magistrate judges handle a variety of matters in both civil and criminal cases, including pretrial proceedings, discovery disputes, and misdemeanor criminal cases.

District courts are the primary trial courts in the federal system, and as such, they are responsible for a wide range of cases. In criminal cases, district courts have jurisdiction over all federal offenses, from minor offenses such as drug possession to serious crimes such as terrorism and organized crime. District courts are also responsible for conducting preliminary proceedings in felony cases, such as arraignments and preliminary hearings, and for sentencing convicted defendants. In addition, district courts hear a variety of civil cases, including cases involving federal law, civil rights, and bankruptcy.

District courts are often the first point of contact for individuals who become involved in the federal court system. They handle a wide variety of cases, and their decisions can have a significant impact on individuals and businesses. For example, a the court’s decision in a criminal case can result in a defendant being sentenced to prison, while a decision in a civil case can determine the outcome of a dispute between two parties. They also play an important role in protecting individual rights, particularly in civil rights cases and cases involving constitutional issues.

In addition to their role in the federal court system, these courts also play an important role in the administration of justice. They are responsible for managing their own caseloads, including scheduling hearings, resolving discovery disputes, and managing trials. They are also responsible for enforcing their own orders and judgments and for ensuring that the parties involved in a case comply with the court’s rules and procedures.

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Last Modified: 04/07/2023


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