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How Many US Courts of Appeals Are There


The United States courts of appeals (or circuit courts) are the intermediate appellate courts of the United 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.

US Courts of Appeals Map

  1. United States Court Of Appeals For The First Circuit
  2. United States Court Of Appeals For The Second Circuit
  3. United States Court Of Appeals For The Third Circuit
  4. United States court Of Appeals For The Fourth Circuit
  5. United States Court Of Appeals For The Fifth Circuit
  6. United States Court Of Appeals For The Sixth Circuit
  7. United States Court Of Appeals For The Seventh Circuit
  8. United States Court Of Appeals For The Eighth Circuit
  9. United States Court Of Appeals For The Ninth Circuit
  10. United States Court Of Appeals For The Tenth Circuit
  11. United States Court Of Appeals For The Eleventh Circuit
  12. United States Court Of Appeals For The District Of Columbia
  13. United States Court Of Appeals For The Federal Circuit

The United States Courts of Appeals are considered among the most powerful and influential courts in the United States. Because of their ability to set legal precedent in regions that cover millions of people, the United States Courts of Appeals have strong policy influence on US law; however, this political recognition is controversial. Moreover, because the US Supreme Court has a small docket and hears fewer than 100 cases annually, the United States Courts of Appeals serves as the final arbiter on most federal cases.

There are currently 179 Judges on the United States Courts of Appeals authorized by Congress and Article III of the US Constitution. These judges are nominated by the President of the United States, and if confirmed by the United States Senate have lifetime tenure, earning an annual salary of $184,500.

There currently are thirteen United States courts of appeals, although there are other tribunals (such as the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, which hears appeals in court-martial cases, and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, which reviews final decisions by the Board of Veterans’ Appeals in the Department of Veterans Affairs) that have “Court of Appeals” in their titles. The eleven “numbered” circuits and the D.C. Circuit are geographically defined. The thirteenth court of appeals is the United 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, with by far the largest share of these cases heard by the D.C. Circuit. The Federal Circuit hears appeals from specialized trial courts, primarily the United States Court of International Trade and the United States Court of Federal Claims, as well as appeals from the district courts in patent cases and certain other specialized matters.

Decisions of the United 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 (of all but the Fifth and Eleventh Circuits) are published separately in West’s Federal Appendix, and they are also available in on-line databases like Lexis or Westlaw. More recently, court decisions are also available electronically on the official Internet websites of the courts themselves. However, there are also a few federal court decisions that are classified for national security reasons.

The circuit with the smallest number of appellate judges is the First Circuit, and the one with the largest number of appellate judges is the geographically-large and populous Ninth Circuit in the Far West. The number of judges that the U.S. Congress has authorized for each circuit is set forth by law in 28 U.S.C. § 44.

Although the courts of appeals are frequently referred to as “circuit courts,” they should not be confused with the former United States circuit courts, which were active from 1789 to 1911, during the time when long-distance transportation was much less available, and which were primarily first-level federal trial courts that moved slowly from place to place in “circuits” in order to serve the dispersed population in towns and the smaller cities that existed then.


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