At its discretion, and within certain guidelines established by Congress, the Supreme Court
each year hears a limited number of the cases it is asked to decide. Those cases may begin in the
federal or state courts, and they usually involve important questions about the Constitution or
federal law. The bound copy is the final authority for Supreme Court decision.
The 94 U.S. judicial districts are organized into 12 regional circuits, each of which has a
United States court of appeals. A court of appeals hears appeals from the district courts located
within its circuit, as well as appeals from decisions of federal administrative agencies. In
addition, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has nationwide jurisdiction to hear appeals
in specialized cases, such as those involving patent laws and cases decided by the Court of
International Trade and the Court of Federal Claims.
The United States district courts are the trial courts of the federal court system. Within
limits set by Congress and the Constitution, the district courts have jurisdiction to hear nearly
all categories of federal cases, including both civil and criminal matters.
Each of the 94 federal judicial districts handles bankruptcy matters, and in almost all
districts, bankruptcy cases are filed in the bankruptcy court. Bankruptcy cases cannot be filed in
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