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  • Questions about courts in the USA

    Hi there!

    I have some questions about courts in the United States:

    The courts are divided into three groups:
    - United States District Courts
    - United States Courts of Appeals
    - United States Supreme Court

    1.) Who appoints the judges for the District Courts?
    2.) Who appoints the judges for the Courts of Appeals?
    3.) Who appoints the judges for the Supreme Court?
    4.) When is a new judge appointed?
    5.) Can a judge be fired?
    6.) Which of the three courts listed above are able to make a verdict for the whole country (nationwide)? Or can the District Courts/Courts of Appeals only judge something for their district/appeal zone?

    Thanks for your help!
    Best wishes and have a great day!

  • #2
    Hi jlaw98. There are good questions.

    For reference: 1-3. These courts are considered Article III courts. Judges are nominated by the President and then confirmed by the Senate.
    4. A new judge can be nominated when there is a vacancy.
    5. Article III judges enjoy life tenure, and can be impeached for bad behavior.
    6. This can be a very nuanced question, so I am going to try to answer as generally as possible: The opinions of the Supreme Court are the law of the land. These decisions must be followed by the lower courts, both Circuit Courts of Appeals and District Courts. Where the Supreme Court is silent (or not explicit) on an issue, the Circuit Courts can make a decision. (Nuance: If a particular circuit has already ruled on an issue, other Circuits can be persuaded by that opinion. Where Circuit Courts don't agree on a particular issue, a "circuit split" is created that may be resolved by the Supreme Court.) The decisions of a particular Circuit Court must be followed by the District Courts in that circuit. For example, the District Court for the Northern District of New York must follow the opinions of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (aka Second Circuit Court of Appeals).

    I hope that helps!

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi Charlotte

      Thank you very much for the good answers! I like to make a summary of the answers, to make sure that I understood it correctly. Can you tell me if my statements are correct? Then I have some additional questions.

      1.) ALL judges of all three court-types (United States District Courts, United States Courts of Appeals, United States Supreme Court) are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
      Correct?

      2.) ALL judges of all three court-types (United States District Courts, United States Courts of Appeals, United States Supreme Court) are appointed for life.
      Correct?

      3.) A new judge can only be appointed if there is a vacancy.
      Correct?


      Some additional questions:

      a) When is there a vacancy? Only if the judge dies or behaves badly? Or can the judge leave voluntarily?

      b) So is it possible that a District Court or a Court of Appeals delivers a verdict for the whole nation? Because recently a New York District Court made a decision regarding the executive order of the president (immigration ban). This decision was for the whole nation.


      Thank you very much!
      Best wishes and have a great day!

      Comment


      • #4
        Hi jlaw98. I will do my best with your questions!

        1. Correct, with slight nuance. They are appointed by the President, yes, but the appointment is first a nomination that goes before the Senate.
        2. Correct.
        3. Correct. (Any nuance here lies in the vacancy itself. See next answer.)


        a. A vacancy can arise in several ways:
        • For existing courts, vacancies are created when a judge leaves voluntarily or retires (or passes) or is impeached for bad behavior or moves/gets appointed to a new court (wherever that court may be, on any level, in any jurisdiction).
        • It is also important to know that the Circuit Courts of Appeals and District Courts, as Article III Courts, can be created by Congress as Congress deems necessary. So, if there's a vacancy on an existing court, someone can be appointed. If Congress decides to create a new court, this creates a vacancy to which someone can be appointed. If there's a vacancy on a Court, and Congress deems that Court not necessary any longer, then there probably will not be a vacancy to fill.
        b. This question might best be answered by an expert. I found a blog post by a reliable source who explains a similar situation from the past with respect to a federal law (not quite the same as an Executive Order, but it should at least give you an idea for answering the question): http://joshblackman.com/blog/2015/02...-injunction-2/

        Comment


        • #5
          Dear Charlotte

          Thank you once again for the great answers! I really appreciate this kind of support. As you already know, I'd like to make a summary of all, to make sure I understood it correctly. Can you please tell me if my statements are now fully correct. Then I have another question.

          Summary

          1.) ALL judges of all three court-types (United States District Courts, United States Courts of Appeals, United States Supreme Court) are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
          Correct?

          2.) ALL judges of all three court-types (United States District Courts, United States Courts of Appeals, United States Supreme Court) are appointed for life.
          Correct?

          3.) A new judge can only be appointed if there is a vacancy.
          Correct?

          4.) There can be a vacancy, when a judge...:
          • leaves voluntarily
          • retires
          • dies
          • behaves badly
          • moves to an other court
          • OR when Congress creates a new court
          Correct?


          Question

          Can you tell me for all the following people, who they are elected/nominated/appointed by:

          a) Congress members
          b) Governors
          c) Federal court judges
          d) State court judges
          e) State Attorney Generals
          f) Mayors of cities


          Thank you very much for your ongoing support! I appreciate it!
          Best wishes and have a great day!

          Comment


          • #6
            Additionally to the questions above, I have two questions to the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Ninth circuit court decided on February 9th 2017 NOT to reinstate the Executive Order on immigration of President Trump. The media says that this decision was unanimous, so all three judges had the same opinion (3-0). On the website of the Ninth Circuit court I can't find information on that. I only see that the case was decided by per curiam decision.

            - Does per curiam automatically mean that the decision was unanimous? Or what does it mean?
            - If per curiam does not mean that the decision was unanimous, where does the media have that information from (on the website)?

            Link to case on the Ninth Circuit court website: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastor...9/17-35105.pdf

            Thank you once again!
            Best wishes

            Comment


            • admin
              admin commented
              Editing a comment
              I think our Wex article on the use of "per curiam" answers at least your first question. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/per_curiam
              As you can see from the example of Bush v. Gore cited there, not all per curiam decisions are unanimous. We don't know if the media is assuming that one means the other, though, of if they have additional information beyond what you've found.

          • #7
            Hi, jlaw98.

            Getting back to your summary: that all seems correct.

            As to your questions (apart from question C, which I would think has been asked and answered), those answers are discoverable online. All of my searches went something like: <election or appointment [insert one category from your list of questions]>. Here's some reading material that I found to help you answer these questions:

            Comment


            • #8
              Dear Charlotte

              Thanks a lot for reviewing my summary and searching answers for my questions. I appreciate the support!

              Best wishes

              Comment

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