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The federal judiciary of the United States is split into essentially one court system for the national government and one for each of the states The federal courts are then split up further The first level of federal courts are the district courts including the US Tax Court followed by the US courts of appeal which includes the US Claims Court and the Court of International Trade On the top of the pyramid lies the US Supreme Court which handles cases of the utmost importance A good majority of the laws legal disputes and court decisions are made within the states but the extremely important eventually make their way to the federal courts such as those concerning political and constitutional issues The federal district courts are the first courts to hear any given case on the federal level Most of the cases that make it to the federal court system are first heard in one of the 94 district courts and the majority of the business of the federal courts takes place at this level A grand jury is used to indict a defendant in criminal cases versus a panel of judges Also this is the only level in the federal court system that uses juries and witnesses and non-criminal cases may be heard either by a petit jury or by a bench trial The second level of the federal court system consists of the US courts of appeal the intermediate courts of appellate jurisdiction these courts do not hear new cases only those that have been appealed from the lower courts The United States is divided into eleven geographic regions also called circuits to hear appeals from the district courts two additional courts reside in Washington DC The procedure of this court is very different compared to that of the district courts First of all the judges convene as panels of three or more to hear oral
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