Circuit Court vs District Court
In all countries of the world, there are judicial systems in place that meant to provide justice according to the provisions of the constitution and the penal laws made by the legislative branch of the government. In US, there are two court systems called federal courts and state courts running simultaneously. There are differences in procedural rules as well as types of cases that can be heard and tried in these two different types of court systems. District courts and circuit courts are examples of the federal court system that also has the US Supreme Court at the top of the judicial system. Many people confuse between circuit court and the district court because of their similarities in jurisdiction and duties. This article attempts to highlight the differences between circuit court and district courts to enable readers to appreciate these differences.
In the federal court system, district courts occupy an important place. These trial courts are set up by the Congress and have the jurisdiction to hear nearly all types of cases including both civil as well as criminal cases. There are 94 district courts with at least one in each state across the nation. Formally, a district court in US is known as United States District Court for … with the blank space to be filled by the area to which it is being referred.
While Supreme Court got established as per the provisions of the constitution, US district courts were set up by the US Congress. Even today there is no constitutional requirement for every district in the country to have a district court. California is the only state that has 4 District Courts. These courts have minimum 2 judges while the maximum number of judges in a district court can be up to 28. Most federal cases get initiated in these district courts.
The origin of circuit courts goes back to the times of King Henry II when he has asked judges to roam the countryside to hear cases. This was done to simplify the judicial process as the King realized that it was not possible for people living in the countryside to come to London for the redress of their grievances. The paths of judges were pre-set, called circuits and judges roamed on these circuits along with their teams of lawyers to hear cases. Abraham Lincoln, who later became the President, used to go to these circuits to hear cases as an attorney.
Today, there are 13 US circuit courts of appeal in the country. The country is divided into 12 regional circuits with the courts set up in different cities, in these circuits. People who are dissatisfied with the verdict of a district court can file an appeal in the circuit court that falls in the geographical area in which he lives. These courts check for any procedural fault or any mistake of law that may have been committed in the district court. These courts do not entertain fresh appeals nor accept new evidences. There is no review of the case as such. In general, there is a bench comprising three judges, and that is constituted to ear these cases.
What is the difference between Circuit Court and District Court?
• Both district courts and circuit courts belong to the federal courts system.
• While there are in total 94 district courts, there are only 13 circuit courts.
• Each state in the country has at least one district court with some larger states having 4 district courts.
• District courts hear all types of cases including both criminal as well as civil.
• Circuit courts are there for those who are dissatisfied with the verdict of the district court.
• While there can be 2-28 judges in district courts, there is a 3 judge panel that sits to hear a case in a circuit court.