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Lesson 5: The Federal Courts

Learning Outcomes

  • Be able to describe the evolving role of the courts since the ratification of the Constitution.
  • Be able to explain why courts are uniquely situated to protect individual rights.
  • Be able to recognize how the courts make public policy.
  • Be able to describe the dual court system and its three tiers.
  • Be able to explain how you are protected and governed by different U.S. court systems.
  • Be able to compare the positive and negative aspects of a dual court system.


  1. Read Introduction to The Courts 13.0
  2. Read Guardians of the Court and Individual Rights 13.1
  3. Read the Dual Court System 13.2
  4. Article III of the U.S. Constitution
    • The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.
  5. Review the Judiciary Act of 1789
    • The Judiciary Act of 1789 was created by Congress to amplify the sparsely written Article III of the Constitution. It established the organization of the U.S. federal court system, which had been sketched only in general terms in the U.S. Constitution. The act established a three-part judiciary—made up of district courtscircuit courts, and the Supreme Court—and outlined the structure and jurisdiction of each branch.
    • The Act also established the number of Justices to serve on the Supreme Court, when the Court would meet.
    • Established the Office of Attorney General.
  6. Map of Federal Appellate Circuits
Map of the Federal Appellate Circuits