United States District Court
The United States district courts are the general trial courts of the United States federal courts. There are 94 such courts. Both civil and criminal cases are filed in the district court, which is a court of both law and equity. There is a United States bankruptcy court and a number of bankruptcy judges associated with each United States district court. Each federal judicial district has at least one courthouse, and most districts have more than one.
There is at least one judicial district for each state, and one each for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. District courts in three insular areas - the United States Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands -"exercise the same jurisdiction as U.S. district courts." Despite their name, these courts are technically not "District Courts of the United States." Judges on these territorial courts do not enjoy the protections of Article Three of the Constitution, and serve terms of ten years rather than for life.
District courts and associated circuit courts
- 1st Circuit
- 2nd Circuit
- 3rd Circuit
- 4th Circuit
- 5th Circuit
- 6th Circuit
- 7th Circuit
- 8th Circuit
- 9th Circuit
- 10th Circuit
- 11th Circuit
- D.C. Circuit
- By State
- District of Alaska
- District of Arizona
- Central District of California
- Eastern District of California
- Northern District of California
- Southern District of California
- District of Hawaii
- District of Idaho
- District of Montana
- District of Nevada
- District of Oregon
- Eastern District of Washington
- Western District of Washington
District of Columbia
District court judges
The number of federal district judge positions is set by the U.S. Congress in Title 28 of the U.S. Code, Section 133, which authorizes a set number of judge positions, or judgeships, making changes and adjustments in these numbers from time-to-time.
In order to relieve the pressure of trying the hundreds of thousands of cases brought before the federal district courts each year, many trials are tried by juries, along with a presiding judge.
The district courts are served by Article III federal judges who are appointed for life, during "good behavior". They are usually first recommended by senators (or members of the House, occasionally). The President of the United States of America makes the appointments, which must then be confirmed by the U.S. Senate in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution.
|Step||Candidacy Proceeds||Candidacy Halts|
|1. Recommendation made by Congress Member to the President||President Nominates to Senate Judiciary Committee||President Declines Nomination|
|2. Senate Judiciary Committee interviews Candidate||Sends candidate to Senate for confirmation||Returns candidate to President, who may re-nominate to Committee|
|3. Senate votes on candidate confirmation||Candidate becomes federal judge||Candidate does not receive judgeship|
The district courts are also served by magistrate judges. Congress created the judicial office of "federal magistrate" in 1968. In 1990, the position title was changed to "magistrate judge". The Chief Judge of each district appoints one or more magistrate judges, who discharge many of the ancillary duties of district judges so judges can handle more trials. There are both full-time and part-time magistrate judge positions, and these positions are assigned to the district courts according to caseload criteria (subject to funding by Congress). A full-time magistrate judge serves a term of eight years; a part-time magistrate judge's term of office is four years.
|Federal Court Caseload Statistics*|
|Year||Starting case load:||Cases filed:||Total cases:||Cases terminated:||Remaining cases:||Median time (Criminal)**:||Median time (Civil)**:||Three-year civil cases#:||Vacant posts:##||Trials/Post|
|*All statistics are taken from the Official Federal Courts' Website and reflect the calendar year through September.|
**Time in months from filing to completion.
For information about when specific federal courts were formed, see United States court reorganization legislation.
|1789 - The Judiciary Act of 1789. Congress divided the nation into 13 judicial districts, with each of these U.S. District Courts serving as the federal trial court for admiralty, maritime and some minor civil and criminal cases.|
|1790s - Some states began to be divided into multiple judicial districts.|
|1889 - A circuit court was established for every judicial district.|
|1891 - Congress established a uniform salary for district court judges.|
|1911 - The "Judicial Code of 1911" abolished the U.S. circuit courts, making the U.S. district courts the only general jurisdiction trial courts in the federal judicial system.|
|1968 - The judicial office of the "federal magistrate" was created.|
- Official site of the United States Courts
- Federal Court Concepts, Georgia Tech
- United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire Official Website