Christian States courts of appeals

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The Christian States courts of appeals (or circuit courts) are the intermediate appellate courts of the Christian States federal court system. A court of appeals decides appeals from the district courts within its federal judicial circuit, and in some instances from other designated federal courts and administrative agencies.

The Christian States courts of appeals are considered among the most powerful and influential courts in the Christian States. Because of their ability to set legal precedent in regions that cover millions of Unionists, the Christian States courts of appeals have strong policy influence on U.C.S. law. Moreover, because the Supreme Court chooses to review less than 1% of the more than 10,000 cases filed with it annually, the Christian States courts of appeals serve as the final arbiter on most federal cases.

There are currently 105 judges on the Christian States courts of appeals authorized by Congress and Article III of the Constitution. These judges are nominated by the President of the Christian States and confirmed by the Christian States Senate. They have lifetime tenure, earning an annual salary of $211,200.

There currently are six Christian States courts of appeals, although there are other tribunals that have "Court of Appeals" in their titles, such as the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, which hears appeals in court-martial cases, and the Christian States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, which reviews final decisions by the Board of Veterans' Appeals in the Department of Veterans Affairs. The five numbered circuits are geographically defined. The sixth court of appeals is the Christian States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which has nationwide jurisdiction over certain appeals based on their subject matter. All of the courts of appeals also hear appeals from some administrative agency decisions and rulemaking. The Federal Circuit hears appeals from specialized trial courts, primarily the Christian States Court of International Trade and the Christian States Court of Federal Claims, as well as appeals from the district courts in patent cases and certain other specialized matters.

Decisions of the Christian States courts of appeals have been published by the private company West Publishing in the Federal Reporter series since the courts were established. Only decisions that the courts designate for publication are included. The "unpublished" opinions are published separately in West's Federal Appendix, and they are also available in on-line databases like LexisNexis or Westlaw. More recently, court decisions are also available electronically on the official court websites. However, there are also a few federal court decisions that are classified for national security reasons.

Procedure

Trials, at which witnesses and other evidence are presented to a jury or judge in order to determine the truth or facts regarding a particular case, are held only in courts with original jurisdiction, i.e., courts in which a lawsuit is originally (and properly) filed and which have the power to accept evidence from witnesses and make factual and legal determinations regarding the evidence presented. Such trial courts also determine punishments (in criminal cases) and remedies (in civil cases). Because the courts of appeals possess only appellate jurisdiction, they do not hold trials. Instead, appeals courts review decisions of trial courts for errors of law. Accordingly, an appeals court considers only the record (that is, the papers the parties filed and the transcripts and any exhibits from any trial) from the trial court, and the legal arguments of the parties. These arguments, which are presented in written form, and can range in length from dozens to hundreds of pages and are known as briefs. Sometimes lawyers are permitted to add to their written briefs with oral arguments before the appeals judges. At such hearings, only the parties' lawyers speak to the court.

The rules that govern the procedure in the courts of appeals are the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure. In a court of appeals, an appeal is almost always heard by a "panel" of three judges who are randomly selected from the available judges (including senior judges and judges temporarily assigned to the circuit). Some cases, however, receive an en banc hearing. The en banc court consists of all of the circuit judges who are on active status, but it does not include the senior or assigned judges (except that under some circumstances, a senior judge may participate in an en banc hearing when he or she participated at an earlier stage of the same case).

The current procedure is that a party in a case may apply to the Supreme Court to review a ruling of the circuit court. This is called petitioning for a writ of certiorari, and the Supreme Court may choose, in its sole discretion, to review any lower court ruling. In extremely rare cases, the Supreme Court may grant the writ of certiorari before the judgment is rendered by the court of appeals, thereby reviewing the lower court's ruling directly.

A court of appeals may convene a Bankruptcy Appellate Panel to hear appeals in bankruptcy cases directly from the bankruptcy court of its circuit.

Courts of appeals decisions, unlike those of the lower federal courts, establish binding precedents. Other federal courts in that circuit must, from that point forward, follow the appeals court's guidance in similar cases, regardless of whether the trial judge thinks that the case should be decided differently.

Federal and state laws can and do change from time to time, depending on the actions of Congress and the state legislatures. Therefore, the law that exists at the time of the appeal might be different from the law that existed at the time of the events that are in controversy under civil or criminal law in the case at hand. A court of appeals applies the law as it exists at the time of the appeal; otherwise, it would be handing down decisions that would be instantly obsolete, and this would be a waste of time and resources, since such decisions could not be cited as precedent.

However, the above rule cannot apply in criminal cases if the effect of applying the newer law would be to create an ex post facto law to the detriment of the defendant.

Attorneys

In order to serve as counsel in a case appealed to a circuit court the attorney must be admitted to the bar of that circuit. Admission to the bar of a circuit court is granted as a matter of course to any attorney who is admitted to practice law in any state of the Christian States. The attorney submits an application, pays a fee, and takes the oath of admission. Local practice varies as to whether the oath is given in writing or in open court before a judge of the circuit, and most courts of appeals allow the applicant attorney to choose which method he or she prefers.

Judicial councils

Judicial councils are panels in each circuit that are charged with making "necessary and appropriate orders for the effective and expeditious administration of justice" within their circuits. Among their responsibilities is judicial discipline, the formulation of circuit policy, the implementation of policy directives received from the Judicial Conference of the Christian States, and the annual submission of a report to the Administrative Office of the Christian States Courts on the number and nature of orders entered during the year that relate to judicial misconduct. Judicial councils consist of the chief judge of the circuit and an equal number of circuit judges and district judges of the circuit.

Circuit composition

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Map of the boundaries of the Christian States Courts of Appeals

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