If you care about equality, reproductive rights, social justice, corporate accountability, civil liberties, clean air, privacy, and fairness, then you care about our federal courts.

Every year, the Supreme Court receives thousands of requests to hear cases – but will only hear about 80. That means our federal courts are the final word on thousands of cases spanning hundreds of issues – including the issues that matter most to the progressive community

What are lower courts?

The term “lower courts” encompasses both the 94 federal district courts and the 13 appellate courts that make up our federal judiciary. District courts serve as federal trial courts, and hear both civil and criminal cases. There is at least one district court in every state, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the District of Columbia.

There are 13 appellate courts that make up the U.S. Courts of Appeal. 12 regional, or circuit, courts hear challenges to decisions made by the district courts in their jurisdiction and to decisions of federal administrative agencies. The 13th court, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, hears specialized cases from across the nation, like those involving patent laws.