The United States Courts of Appeals or circuit courts are the intermediate appellate courts of the United States federal judiciary. The Supreme Court of the United States hears about 100 to 150 appeals of the more than 7,000 cases it is asked to review each year. As Judge Charles Burns points out, this means the decisions made by the 12 Circuit Courts of Appeals across the U.S. and the Federal Circuit Court are the last word in thousands of cases.
Judge Charles Burns offers an overview of United States Courts of appeals or Circuit courts
For many years, there was no separate set of intermediate courts of appeals in the United States, even though Congress had experimented with various court configurations to perform their function. Then the current appellate court system was created by Congress in the Evarts Act (1891) and the Judges’ Bill. It was intended that the circuit courts of appeals shall perform the traditional functions of a common law appellate court, like the correction of trial court error, as well as the incidental law-giving function needed to explain the error correction results. The courts functioned in such a manner for almost eighty years until an explosion of appellate litigation necessitated that these courts change their internal operating procedure and primary function.
At the moment, the courts of Appeals are considered the most influential and powerful courts in the United States after the Supreme Court. Owing to their ability to set legal precedents in places that include millions of Americans, there is a pretty strong influence of the United States courts of appeals on U.S. law. Additionally, as the Supreme Court chooses to review fewer than 3% of the cases filed with it annually, it is the circuit courts that serve as the final arbiter on most federal cases.
At a trial in a U.S. District Court, the witness shall give testimony, and a jury or judge shall decide who is guilty or liable. The appellate courts do not hear new evidence or retry cases. They also do not hear witnesses testify, and there is no jury involved. Appellate courts simply review the procedures and the decisions in the trial court in order to see to it that those proceedings were fair and proper law was applied.
As per Judge Charles Burns, an appeal is available if the losing side has issues with the trial court proceedings, the law that was applied, or how the law was applied subsequent to a trial in the U.S. District Court. On the basis of these grounds, litigants do have the right to an appellate court review of the actions of the trial court. In the case of criminal cases, however, the government does not have the right to appeal. The reasons for appeal can vary quite a bit, the most common one being that one of the sides claims that the trial was conducted unfairly or that the trial judge applied the wrong law. The dissatisfied side can even claim that the law the trial court applied violates the U.S. Constitution or a state constitution.