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How Does a Case Go to Federal Court?

How Does a Case Go to Federal Court?

The United States Federal Court System consists of a network of venues dedicated to managing the federal judicial process. The jurisdiction of federal courts extends to 94 federal judicial districts in the country, including the territories of Guam, Northern Mariana and the Virgin Islands. The federal courts include the Supreme Court of the United States, the court of highest standing and jurisprudence in the nation, the courts of appeals, district courts, bankruptcy courts and special jurisdiction courts.

The different cases generally heard in the federal court system involve:

  • Constitutional issues
  • Sovereign treaties
  • Admiralty law
  • Bankruptcies
  • Multiple jurisdiction civil lawsuits
  • Federal offenses involving the U.S. Code

Criminal offenses are tried in the district courts, and they usually involve cases filed by U.S. attorneys or a grand jury. Federal law enforcement or investigative agencies may also be involved. For example, the U.S. Coast Guard may arrest an individual in territorial waters and notify the U.S. attorney of a possible offense. The U.S. attorney often works with law enforcement agencies that conduct investigations or surveillance and collects evidence of alleged crimes. The U.S. attorney then presents the evidence to a grand jury for review and to decide if a new federal trial should be filed.

There are two federal districts in Ohio: The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio and the Northern District. Each district has a U.S. Attorney in charge, and both districts appeal to the Sixth Circuit. The federal system has an overwhelming number of guilty pleas entered by defendants at the arraignment, but many of these are made as strategically made as part of bargaining agreements. Just like in the state court system, the burden of proof is on the government, defendants have the right to trial by jury, and the accused are not guilty until proven otherwise.


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