What is the Third Circuit Court of Appeals?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 16 January 2020
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The Third Circuit Court of Appeals is an appellate court in the United States responsible for handling cases from New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. It also hears cases concerning the United States Virgin Islands, which is a territory rather than a state. Like other appellate courts, the Third Circuit provides a means for members of the public to appeal decisions from lower courts if they feel those decisions are unfair or fundamentally flawed.

This court has been active since 1891, when it was established by an act of Congress. Fourteen judges sit on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, hearing cases at the James A. Byrne Courthouse in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The work of the court is supported by a number of clerks, secretaries, and other administrative personnel. Newly minted attorneys may pursue positions in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals to get valuable work experience and employment references.


Members of the public who wish to submit a case to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals must follow the judicial process through the lower courts, demonstrating that they have attempted to obtain judicial relief and been unable to do so. Attorneys present oral arguments before the Third Circuit as well as submit briefs and other supporting information to bolster their cases. They can argue cases on a number of grounds, and the Third Circuit may decide to send the case back to the lower courts, overturn an original ruling, or uphold the ruling. If the court upholds the ruling, it is necessary to go further up the judicial chain to the Supreme Court if the client wishes to continue the appeal.

The nature of cases heard in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals varies. Judges rotate through the position of chief justice on the court to keep the division of duties reasonable, and may periodically recuse themselves from cases if they feel they cannot hear them in an unbiased fashion. Justices leave the Third Circuit Court of Appeals when they choose to retire, die, or are promoted to other government positions such as seats on the Supreme Court.

Proceedings at the Third Circuit Court of Appeals are open to members of the public. Visitors to the court must comply with security procedures as well as respect the dignity of the court by dressing appropriately, obeying orders from bailiffs, and taking note of any directions on posted notices. A judge may ask bailiffs to remove individuals from the court if they disrupt proceedings, and can clear the court altogether for sensitive cases.


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