The Courts of the Judicial Branch - Reading Comprehension
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The Courts of the Judicial Branch Reading Comprehension
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The Courts of the Judicial Branch
By Phyllis Naegeli
  

1     Article III of the United States Constitution established the Supreme Court as the highest court in our land. The power granted to the court to decide cases involving federal or constitutional law was set up to check the balance of power within the government. This Article also granted Congress the authority to create lower courts as needed. Congress exercised this power in 1789 when they passed the Judiciary Act establishing the lower district courts.
 
2     U.S. District Courts have original jurisdiction to hear cases for the first time when they involve constitutional law, treaty violations, crimes committed on federal property, the breaking of a federal law, citizens of different states, crimes committed by U.S. officials against other countries, and crimes committed on a U.S. ship at sea. Presently, there are ninety-four U.S. District Courts. There is at least one in each state, one in Washington, D.C., and one in each territory - Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands.
 
3     There are two sides to every dispute brought before the district courts. The petitioner is the person or group who begins the case by making an accusation or suing. The respondent is the person or group accused or sued. Each court has a judge and a jury to decide the outcome. (However, the respondent can choose to waive the right to a jury.)
 
4     Each side hires an attorney to represent it before the court. During a trial, each attorney has the opportunity to present the facts and laws that support his or her client's argument. After the information is presented, a verdict is reached. Although most cases end at this court level, the U.S. Court of Appeals can review an unfavorable verdict.
 
5     In 1891, Congress created the U.S. Courts of Appeals (called the higher courts) to handle the growing number of appeals. The United States is divided into eleven circuits. Each one has a federal appeals court. There are two additional circuits. One is for the District of Columbia, and one is for hearing cases involving government agencies - called the Federal Circuit. Each circuit has six to twenty-eight judges to review decisions made in the district courts. The appeals courts are given only appellate jurisdiction. When a case comes to these courts, no new evidence is presented. The judges review the written materials from the case. Then they decide if the law was applied correctly and if procedures were followed properly. Depending on the importance of the case, one or more judges in the circuit may be involved in the review. If the case is very important, all twenty-eight of the judges within the circuit may review the case.

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