United States Court of Appeals
The circuit courts better known as the United States courts of appeals are the intermediate level of appellate courts in the U.S. It is their job to rule on motions sent up from the district courts in their jurisdiction and sometimes from other agencies or courts.
Due to their ability to affect millions of Americans by setting a precedent, the U.S. courts of appeals are widely accepted as the most influential and powerful courts in our nation. The U.S. Supreme Court allows only about 2% of the 7,000-8,000 cases presented to them annually. Therefore the U.S. courts of appeals process more claims than any other in the federal court system. This volume gives them a lot of power and influence to affect policies concerning the law.
In the U.S. the Ninth Circuit court of appeals is the most significant and most potent covering more than 20% of the U.S. population. The smallest with the fewest number of judges is the First Circuit court.
There is a total of thirteen courts of appeals throughout the United States. Although there are specialized courts of appeals for things like veteran and military cases, these are the largest and most prominent.
A U.S. court of appeals does not hear any trials; they only review district court cases looking for errors or incorrect interpretation of the law. They do not hear arguments from the litigators; they do not review any evidence or hear testimony, they only review all the paperwork transcribed by the court reporter. These files are called briefs and can be as large as hundreds of pages. On occasion, the lawyer’s are permitted to write a brief and summarize their arguments which the court reviews along with the other documents.
The United States courts of appeals are subject to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, and they usually consist of a panel of three judges that perform each review.
The decisions made by the U.S. court of appeals are permanent and binding and set precedent which all other courts in the jurisdiction must follow.
The process starts by a party requesting a writ of certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court hears only a tiny fraction of the cases appealed, so most of them will be assigned to a U.S. court of appeals instead.
Unites States laws change over time, so the U.S. courts of appeals apply the law existing at the time of the hearing.
To practice law in a United States court of appeals a lawyer must apply and pay a fee to gain admission into the bar for that circuit. They must also take a solemn oath before joining. The oath my may be in writing or before a judge.
The U.S. courts of appeals were established back in 1891, and each one is called the "United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the … Circuit" with the name of the jurisdiction inserted where the eclipse is.