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Judicial Powers - The Federal System Of Courts

supreme appellate judges rule

An appeal is a request to a higher court for a reversal of a lower court's decision. The U.S. Supreme Court is the ultimate appellate court and may review the decisions of lower courts, such as the U.S. Court of Appeals, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and individual state supreme courts. A judgment by the U.S. Supreme Court cannot be appealed. Usually, an appellate court will review the application of law in a trial court. It does not attempt to rule on the lower court's finding of facts. For instance, an appellate court may rule as to whether or not there was an error in the instructions given to the jury and whether or not this error might have been prejudicial to the defendant's case. The court would not, however, attempt to determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant.

In order for a court to hear a case, it must have jurisdiction, or authority, over the subject matter. For instance, the U.S. bankruptcy courts do not hear divorce actions. Generally, the federal courts handle matters that involve a federal question. A federal question is a legal issue that relates to either the U.S. Constitution, federal laws, or treaties between the United States and other countries. However, there are times when federal courts have jurisdiction in state-related cases, such as when the parties are from different states or when the parties in the dispute are a state government and a citizen of another state.

Federal judges are appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate. These appointments are for life terms and the judges can only be removed from their positions for misconduct. There are no stated requirements in the U.S. Constitutions for any specific qualifications necessary to become a U.S. Supreme Court justice. However, as a rule, most justices have been lawyers and have, in fact, been judges in other court systems. U.S. Supreme Court justices may only be removed from their office by impeachment.

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