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Judges and the Judiciary: Exploring America's Court System (Formerly known as Congress and the Courts)

This library brings together materials on the composition, structure, oversight, and procedures of the judiciary, analyzing how the courts touch the lives of everyday Americans.


About Judges and the Judiciary: Exploring America's Court System

Previously known as Congress and the Courts, now updated and with expanded coverage!

This HeinOnline database brings together a diverse set of materials focusing on the structure, creation, actions of, and oversight of the courts, both state and federal.  

There are three primary types of federal courts:

  • District courts
    • also known as trial courts
    • there are 94 district courts
    • organized based on state boundaries, but states with large populations may be covered by more than one district
    • include a judge and jury
  • Appellate courts
    • there are 13 appellate courts
    • the district courts are organized into 12 larger circuits and regions
    • hears challenges to district court decisions to determine if the original trial was fair and correctly decided
    • must hear all cases submitted to them
  • U.S. Supreme Court
    • top of the judicial food chain
    • usually hears cases that have proceeded through district and appellate courts
    • has original jurisdiction for cases that involves two or more states
    • picks and chooses the cases it hears

State courts:

  • are the final arbiter of state laws and state constitutions
  • hear drunk driving cases, murder trials, and handle divorces, adoptions, personal injury, and probate
  • states establish their own court systems
  • if a state court interprets federal law, the case can be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court


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Landing page showing introductory text. At right are two images: a gavel striking and below a courtroom sketch scene. At top of page are 16 tabs offering these options: Introduction, All Titles, Congress and the Courts (Legislative History), CRS Report, GAO Reports, Federal Judicial Center Publications, Federal Rules, Hearings, History of Supreme Court Nominations, Legislative Histories, Serials & Periodicals, Other Related Works, CFR Title 28, US Code Titles 18 & 28, Scholarly Articles, LibGuide.