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Lower courts

Along with the establishment of a supreme court, Article III of the US Constitution calls for Congress to create any other federal courts necessary to interpret and apply the federal laws of the land. In response Congress has created a number of district courts, appeal courts and several specialised courts such as the Tax Court, which hears cases regarding federal taxes. There are 94 district courts spread throughout the US and its overseas territories. They are the trial courts of the federal judicial system and have jurisdiction in federal criminal cases and civil cases. There are 13 courts of appeals - one for each of the 11 geographical regions, called circuits, one for the District of Columbia, and one hearing cases from specialised lower courts. These 13 courts hear cases on appeal from the federal district courts and other lower courts.

However, most legal cases in the US - including nearly all criminal cases - are tried by state courts, using state laws, which can vary greatly between states (for example, in the use of the death penalty).

man in handcuffs
The federal courts deal with crimes against federal law


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