The complexity of the U.S. Court system is examines in this worksheet and lesson set.

The court system in the United States is composed of a federal system and fifty individual state court systems. The vast majority of legal cases are heard and often resolved at the state level. Each state has its own laws and requires a separate expert lawyer. Our legal system is based on the pretense of the adversarial process which basically states that both parties the plaintiff and defendant must be treat equally. They must be able to debate and argue regardless of the offense that the defendant is charged with.

This collection of lessons and worksheets looks at hierarchy of the United States Courts. Topics include the federal courts, district courts, circuit courts, and even the Supreme Court. We also look at the basic judicial process as an argument makes its way to the highest courts.

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The Federal Court System Reading Passage

There are three levels of federal courts in the United States. At the lowest level are the U.S. district courts.

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The Federal Court System - Multiple Choice Questions

The Supreme Court in D.C. is the highest court in the United States, and all of their decisions are final.

District Courts

District courts hear most of the trials in the federal court system, and they hear both civil and criminal cases.

District Courts - Short Answer Questions

Another kind of judge in district courts is the federal magistrate judge. These judges are appointed by the district court.

Circuit Courts

There are 94 federal judicial districts (and 94 district courts) and these are organized into 12 regions.

QUESTIONS: Circuit Courts

There are multiple judges in each circuit court. Smaller regions have fewer judges (as few as six); larger regions have more (as many as 29).

The Supreme Court

The judges in the Supreme Court are called "justices" Like all federal judges, they are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, and serve life terms.

QUESTIONS: The Supreme Court

What requirement do the circuit courts have that the Supreme Court doesn't have?

The Judicial Process

The U.S. Constitution guarantees every person the right to a fair trial before a competent judge and/or a jury of their peers.

QUESTIONS: The Judicial Process

All trials, both civil and criminal are first heard by a district court.

The Jury Reading Passage

Jury members must meet certain qualifications. They must be at least eighteen years old.


What might cause a potential juror to be excused from hearing a trial?

History of the U.S. Court System

The authority to establish judicial authority in the United States was given to Congress by the Articles of Confederation before the Constitution was written.

QUESTIONS: History of the U.S. Court System

Because many of the time worried that the states would lose power as federal power increased, the Judiciary Act included provisions for state courts to exercise jurisdiction over many federal questions.

Getting a Case to the Supreme Court Reading Worksheet

In order for the Supreme Court to hear a case, at least four of the nine Justices must agree to grant the writ of certiorari.

Getting a Case to the Supreme Court - Short Answer Questions

What does granting a writ of certiorari mean and not mean with regards to the Supreme Court's feelings about the case?

Federal vs. State Courts

The judicial system in the United States consists of both federal and state courts.

Federal vs. State Courts- Multiple Choice Questions

Federal courts hear cases that deal with whether or not a law is constitutional; cases involving the laws and treaties of the U.S.; and cases involving ambassadors and public ministers.

The State Court System

Courts of Special Jurisdiction only hear specific kinds of cases.

The State Court System - Short Answer

What are the two kinds of trial courts?