District Courts of the United States
The United States trial courts are called district courts and process both criminal and civil cases. The court for each state is formally called “the United States District Court for…” naming the county or state. Each district has their own courthouse, and some have more than one.
Congress created the U.S. district courts, whereas the Supreme Court was established by the Constitution of the United States by our founding fathers. Worry over too much power being wielded by the Supreme Court in Washington is what prompted the idea of smaller, district trial courts, with the Supreme Court acting as an appellate court to oversee the rulings of the lower courts.
Each state has at least one district court, and some states have more but are limited to four. There is a total of ninety-four districts within the fifty states and all territories.
United States district courts have exclusive jurisdiction over civilian criminal cases. There are some federal courts which share jurisdiction with state district courts, but sometimes they overrule the district and assume complete jurisdiction for some types of cases.
There are some special types of courts which handle bankruptcy, trade laws, federal claims, and taxes. These courts have complete jurisdiction over these cases, and they cannot tried in a district court.
U.S. district courts have complete jurisdiction to try the following types of cases:
- Civil cases which apply to Constitutional law
- Civil cases between two people
- Civil cases concerning the admiralty or maritime jurisdictions
- Civil cases where the U.S. is one party
- Criminal cases where the U.S. is the prosecution
- Other various types of cases
The federal courts limit the cases allowed in a district court. However, those that are permitted, allow the defendant the option to be tried within a federal or state court. Most cases tried in a state court have the option of an appeal after the verdict.
United States District Judges
The official title of a judge who presides over a district court is “United States District Judge.” Federal judges such as Supreme Court or Circuit Judges can also sit in a district court if they are appointed. The President selects and appoints federal justices for a term of ”good behavior.” As long as they follow the code of conduct set forth by Congress, a judge can hold his seat until he retires or dies. He can be removed only through impeachment.
United States District Court judges have the authority and option to pass along some of the more mundane tasks to magistrate judges. Items such as resolving discovery disputes. reporting, and recommendations are some of the tasks relegated to magistrate judges. Each district court appoints their own magistrate judges, and they are limited to an eight-year term, which may be renewed for another eight years.
Magistrate judges are overseen by district court judges and can be removed from office for misconduct, incompetently, or neglecting their duties along with other issues.