United States district court

Map of the boundaries of the United States Courts of Appeals (by color) and United States District Courts. All District Courts lie within the boundary of a single jurisdiction usually in a state (heavier lines); some states have more than one District Court (lighter lines denote those jurisdictions)

The United States district courts are the general trial courts of the United States federal court system. Both civil and criminal cases are filed in the district court, which is a court of law, equity, and admiralty. There is a United States bankruptcy court associated with each United States district court. Each federal judicial district has at least one courthouse, and many districts have more than one. The formal name of a district court is "the United States District Court for" the name of the district—for example, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

In contrast to the Supreme Court, which was established by Article III of the Constitution, the district courts were established by Congress. [note 1] There is no constitutional requirement that district courts exist at all. Indeed, after the ratification of the Constitution, some opponents of a strong federal judiciary urged that, outside jurisdictions under direct federal control like Washington, D.C. and the territories, the federal court system be limited to the Supreme Court, which would hear appeals from state courts. This view did not prevail, however, and the first Congress created the district court system that is still in place today.

There is at least one judicial district for each state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. District courts in three insular areas—the United States Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands—exercise the same jurisdiction as Article III U.S. district courts. [1] [2] [3] Despite their name, these courts are technically not "District Courts of the United States". Judges on these Article IV territorial courts do not enjoy the protections of Article Three of the Constitution, and serve terms of ten years rather than for life.

There are 89 districts in the 50 states, with a total of 94 districts including territories. [4]

Other federal trial courts

There are other federal trial courts that have nationwide jurisdiction over certain types of cases, but the district court also has concurrent jurisdiction over many of those cases, and the district court is the only one with jurisdiction over civilian criminal cases. The United States Court of International Trade addresses cases involving international trade and customs issues. The United States Court of Federal Claims has exclusive jurisdiction over most claims for money damages against the United States, including disputes over federal contracts, unlawful takings of private property by the federal government, and suits for injury on federal property or by a federal employee. The United States Tax Court has jurisdiction over contested pre-assessment determinations of taxes.