Federal Courts Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Federal Courts, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Federal Courts?

n. The court system handling civil and criminal cases determined by the Constitution’s jurisdictions and federal statutes. Federal courts include federal district courts, district courts of appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court, and specialized courts such as bankruptcy, tax, claims, and veterans’ appeals.

History and Meaning of Federal Courts

Federal Courts are a crucial part of the United States judicial system. They were established to interpret and apply the laws of the Constitution and the United States. These courts were created by the Constitution’s Article III, which grants the Supreme Court the authority to decide the constitutionality of laws.

The Federal Courts hear civil and criminal cases that fall under federal jurisdiction. Federal Courts can be categorized into four types: district courts, circuit courts of appeal, the Supreme Court, and a handful of specialized courts like bankruptcy, tax, and appeals of veteran's benefits.

Examples of Federal Courts

  1. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York is a federal court that has jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases filed in Manhattan, the Bronx, and parts of Westchester County.
  2. A federal court in Virginia has allowed a $25 million lawsuit against Fox News by a former professor at Wheaton College to proceed.
  3. A group of Twitter users have sued Donald Trump and two top aides for blocking them on the social media platform, citing the First Amendment and the Constitution; this case is being heard in Federal Court.
  4. A trial in Minnesota in Federal Court resulted in a $20 million verdict against Toyota for a fatal accident caused by unintended acceleration.
  5. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the decision of a federal court ordering Verizon to produce the names of more than 100 customers who were suspected of engaging in illegal music sharing.

Legal Terms Similar to Federal Courts

  1. State Courts: State Courts are the judicial systems of individual states, and they handle cases that fall under their own state laws.
  2. Supreme Court: The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States, and it has the power to interpret and apply the laws.
  3. Circuit Courts: Circuit Courts are intermediate appellate courts that hear appeals from lower courts, including Federal, State, and local courts.
  4. Magistrate Court: Magistrates are judicial officers that assist district court judges with cases, such as conducting trials and ruling on motions.
  5. Small Claims Court: Small Claims Courts handle civil disputes where the amount of money at stake is relatively small. Some state-level small claims courts handle disputes up to $10,000 or more.