What does a Court of Appeals Judge do?

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  • Written By: Victoria Blackburn
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2019
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The Judicial branch of the United States government consists of a large number of courts. These courts are arranged into three distinct courts: the District Courts, Courts of Appeals and the Supreme Court. The United States Supreme Court is the top level court in the country, while the District Courts are the lowest level in the system. A Court of Appeals judge acts as a part of the Court of Appeals at either the federal or state level.

The Court of Appeals is a court where the purpose is to review the decisions of lower courts found within the same jurisdiction. Many of the individual states that make up the United States have different names for the Court of Appeals. Some states refer to them as the Appellate Court, the Court of Errors, or the Supreme Court of the specific state they represent. Depending on the structure of the state and its terminology, the Court of Appeals may be either the highest or the middle court in a specific jurisdiction.

There are thirteen separate federal Courts of Appeals in the United States. On a federal level, the Court of Appeals is also known as the Circuit Court because each of the courts is responsible for covering a group of states referred to as circuits. The Court of Appeals judge assigned to each location hears the appeals from local courts that are within their assigned circuit.


Twelve of the circuits have a Court of Appeals assigned to them, each hearing the cases within their circuits. The thirteenth is the federal Court of Appeals, and is known as the Federal Circuit. This is the court of appeals that has nationwide authority to hear appeals across the country as well as specialized cases as assigned or requested by other jurisdictions.

Each federal Court of Appeals judge is nominated by the President of the United States. Nominations are then approved by the Senate and assignments given for locations. The number of judges assigned to each circuit is based on the population of the specific region. A Court of Appeals judge can be granted lifetime tenure if and when that decision is given final confirmation by the Senate.

A Court of Appeals judge on either a federal and state level manages the court and makes the final decision over all of the cases that are heard. The judges that make up the federal Court of Appeals also influence the laws of the nation. The cases heard can often result in changes to national laws and legislation based on the rulings. The Court of Appeals has the collective power to make a final determination on the cases by interpreting the law as it relates to the United States Constitution.

A Court of Appeals judge hears court cases and makes a final determination after reviewing the material involved in that case. The Supreme Court may hear the appeals from the lower level courts. All of the decisions made by the United States Supreme Court are final and may be overturned only if it is discovered that a prior ruling was issued for a similar case.


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