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Territorial Courts

Federal tribunals that serve as both federal and state courts in possessions of the United States—such as Guam and the Virgin Islands—that are not within the limits of any state but are organized with separate legislatures and executive and judicial officers appointed by the president.

Territorial courts are legislative courts created by Congress pursuant to its constitutional power under Article I, Section 8, Clause 9, to create tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court. They are not constitutional courts created by Article III of the Constitution. Congress vests territorial courts with jurisdiction comparable to that exercised by federal district courts. Congress can, however, impose restrictions and duties on territorial courts that cannot be imposed on federal district courts, such as limiting the tenure of the members of the bench. Once a territory is admitted to the Union as a state, the jurisdiction of its territorial court is extinguished. Pending cases are transferred to the appropriate tribunals according to the nature of the particular action.

The Supreme Court reviews decisions rendered by territorial courts if they satisfy certain requirements.

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