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Judicial Powers - Powers Of The Courts

bankruptcy federal appeals district

The power of the various other federal courts has been established by statutes passed by Congress. The courts hear cases from all 50 states and the U.S. territories. The courts are divided into 12 judicial circuits and from there, subdivided into more than 90 judicial districts. The rulings from the federal district courts may be reviewed by one of the 12 judicial circuits of the U.S. court of appeals, called the circuit courts of appeals before 1948. These courts are limited to hearing matters that are brought before them on appeal and usually consist of at least three judges. The only court higher than the court of appeals is the Supreme Court. The purpose of the court of appeals is to lighten the burden of the Supreme Court and thus make the judicial process move more quickly for litigants. In 1982 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit was established. This specialized court handles appeals in which the U.S. government is a party. It reviews cases involving copyright, tax, patent, federal employment law, and claims against the United States for money damages.

There is at least one U.S. district court in each state and the District of Columbia. Each district court has one or more district judges, the exact number is determined by the population of the area that the court serves and is authorized by Congress. In addition, a District Court has a clerk, a U.S. attorney, a U.S. marshall, U.S. magistrates, bankruptcy judges, probation officers, court reporters, and support staff. These federal trial courts try both criminal and civil cases and are the court of origination for cases that arise under the Constitution or U.S. laws and treaties and involve more than $10,000 in damages. They also may review federal administrative decisions and rulings made by the bankruptcy courts.

Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution grants Congress the power to "establish . . .uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States." The Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978, amended in 1984 and 1986, serves as the federal government's bankruptcy legislation. Over ninety percent of bankruptcies are voluntary, meaning that the debtor was not forced to file a bankruptcy petition by creditors. The federal bankruptcy law ensures that there is equality among creditors and that the debtor's assets are distributed fairly and that the debtor's obligations are discharged as expediently as possible. The law also allows debtors to try a financial reorganization plan in an effort to avoid complete liquidation of assets. The bankruptcy courts are part of the U.S. district courts and try bankruptcy cases with jurisdiction over a debtor's property, regardless of the property's location. Bankruptcy judges are appointed by the president and serve a 14-year term.

While most federal courts are constitutional in nature, some courts have been authorized through legislation and are considered legislative courts. The specialized jurisdiction of these courts has been defined by Congress because the courts were not provided for in the original Constitution. Examples of legislative courts include the U.S. Claims Court, the U.S. Court of International Trade, and the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals.

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