Difference Between Circuit Court & District Court

Circuit Court vs District Court

In every country, judicial systems are in place to provide justice according to the provisions of the constitution and the penal laws established by the legislative branch of the government. In the United States, two court systems, federal courts and state courts, run simultaneously. These court systems have differences in procedural rules and the types of cases they can hear and try. District courts and circuit courts are examples of the federal court system, which also includes the U.S. Supreme Court at the top of the judicial system. Many people confuse circuit courts with district courts because of their similarities in jurisdiction and duties. This article aims to highlight the differences between circuit courts and district courts to enable readers to appreciate these distinctions.

District Court

District courts play an essential role in the federal court system. Congress establishes these trial courts, which have the jurisdiction to hear almost all types of cases, including both civil and criminal cases. There are 94 district courts across the nation, with at least one in each state. Formally, a U.S. district court is known as the United States District Court for…, with the blank space to be filled by the area to which it is being referred.

While the Supreme Court was established as per the provisions of the constitution, U.S. district courts were set up by the U.S. Congress. Even today, there is no constitutional requirement for every district in the country to have a district court. California is the only state with four district courts. These courts have a minimum of two 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.

Circuit Court

Circuit courts date back to the times of King Henry II when he asked judges to travel 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 and called circuits. Judges roamed these circuits with their teams of lawyers to hear cases. Abraham Lincoln, who later became President, used to go to these circuits to hear cases as an attorney.

Today, there are 13 U.S. 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 dissatisfied with a district court’s verdict can file an appeal in the circuit court within the geographical area in which they live. These courts check for any procedural fault or mistake of law that may have been committed in the district court. They do not entertain fresh appeals nor accept new evidence. There is no review of the case as such. Generally, a bench comprising three judges is constituted to hear these cases.

Key Takeaways

• Both district courts and circuit courts belong to the federal court system.
• While there are 94 district courts in total, there are only 13 circuit courts.
• District courts hear all types of cases, including both criminal and civil, while circuit courts are for those dissatisfied with a district court’s verdict.

Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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