As mandated by the Constitution the Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court. The Court has been composed of the Chief Justice of the United States and since 1869, eight Associate Justices. Congress, which governs the Court's organization by legislation, has varied the number of Associate Justices from 6 to 10 over the history of the Court. Congress now requires six Justices for a quorum.
B) What is the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court?
The Constitution provides that in all cases affecting ambassadors to the United States, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a State is a party, the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction. This was modified by the 11th Amendment to preclude citizens of one State from suing another State. Additionally, the Constitution provides that Congress may regulate the appellate jurisdiction of the Court. Congress has authorized the Supreme Court, among other things, to review decisions of lower Federal courts and the highest courts of the States.
C) What are the District Courts, and how are they organized?
The 94 district courts, created by Congress, are the trial courts in the Federal judicial system. It is in these courts that most Federal cases are first tried and decided. There is at least one district court in each state for a total of 89 in the 50 States, plus one in each territory: the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Each court has from 1 to 28 judges and trials in these courts are generally heard by a single judge.
D) What are the Courts of Appeals and how are they organized?
Often called the circuit courts, they are divided geographically into 12 circuits, each having from 6 to 28 judges. The jurisdiction of these courts covers appeals from the District Courts and appeals from actions of Government agencies. Cases are generally presented to the courts sitting in panels of three judges. There also is a Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit with a nationwide jurisdiction which review lower court rulings in, among other things, patent, trademark, and copyright cases.