Court of Appeals

From Academic Kids

Court of Appeals is the title of certain appellate courts in various jurisdictions.

The United States

The thirteen United States Courts of Appeals stand between the United States District Courts (or other comparable federal courts, such as the Court of International Trade) and the United States Supreme Court.

Each state has decided upon its own particular appellate structure.

In the state of New York, for example, the Court of Appeals is the highest court in the state and the court of last resort within the State. Only cases raising questions of federal law can be appealed from there to the United States Supreme Court. Similarly, in the District of Columbia, the Court of Appeals is equivalent to a state supreme court.

In New Mexico, the Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court between county jurisdictions and the state's Supreme Court. Most states that have a Court of Appeals (or multiple Courts) give them a similar intermediate role.

In Nevada (and a few other states), there is no Court of Appeals. Cases are appealed directly from District (county) Courts to the state's Supreme Court. The state Supreme Court in that case must hear all appeals.

The general rule in the American justice system is that the loser deserves one appeal. Therefore, such intermediate courts usually have mandatory jurisdiction and must hear an appeal, while the state supreme court (or the U.S. Supreme Court in the federal system) has discretionary jurisdiction and hears an appeal only if it wants to. There exist some special exceptions to this rule. In some state courts, the state's supreme court is required by law to hear all appeals of a certain nature. These cases usually involve the death penalty or cases involving high-ranking government officials.


Some countries within the Commonwealth of Nations have courts by the name of the Court of Appeal above the High Court and below the court of last resort (which may be the House of Lords, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, etc.). For a fuller treatment, see Courts of England and Wales.

In Canada the Court of Appeals is the highest court in each of the country's provincial jurisdictions. The Supreme Court of Canada, the country's court of last resort, is the only court higher than any of the provincial or territorial court of appeals.

In France the Courts of Appeals are one level under the Cour de cassation, which is the court of last resort. There exist administrative Courts of Appeal, under the Conseil d'État, for cases belonging to the administrative order.

In Germany, with civil and criminal cases, the highest court in a hierarchy of appellate courts is the Bundesgerichtshof. The other branches of the German judicial branch for social, labor, and administrative cases each have their own appellate systems. The Bundesgerichtshof is distinct from the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, which only performs judicial review, although both courts are located in Karlsruhe.

See also: Appeals court, List of legal topics


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