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Difference Between Circuit Court and District Court

Circuit Court vs District Court

Both the circuit court and the district court are trial courts. As such, this is where the facts of an event or happening under litigation are presented and are weighed or decided upon by a group of people known as the jury. Even though the two are trial courts, they still differ in their jury services, procedural rules, and existence in difference types of judicial systems. On top of that, one can hear a certain type of case while the other cannot and vice versa.

Foremost, district courts are the courts of the federal trial system that can hear trials or cases. Some of their scope are the cases involving the country’s citizens wherein the disputed value or amount is in excess of $75,000. Statutory cases that go against the U.S. Constitution or its treaties and enacted Congressional laws are also solvable in district courts. The decisions made in this court can be appealed at the Court of Appeals of the United States of America. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are observed in district courts.

As of the first quarter of 2011, there are about 94 of these district courts across America, and each state is being represented with at least one of these federal courts while others, like the state of New York, have as many as four to cover all of its major territories: north, south, east and west.

With circuit courts, these have the authority to adjudicate cases involving the laws, citizens, and businesses of the state. These courts came into existence as pinpointed by the Constitution of the states. There are many circuit courts in each state. For example, Florida has as many as 20 of them with each one covering several counties. Circuit courts can hear disputes that are civil in nature that amount to $15,000 or more. Criminal cases and any violation of the state’s family law can also be heard in these kinds of court. The decisions made in circuit courts can be appealed at the State Court of Appeals. It also follows its own set of procedural rules unlike district courts.

Another key difference between the two is that district courts need their jury to be comprised of 6 to 12 jurors. Because no alternates are allowed in district courts, each of the jurors should be involved in the decision-making process. A unanimous decision should be returned to settle the case. On the contrary, circuit courts can have smaller juries, can use alternates, and may not even mandate that the verdict be unanimous with everyone.


1.District courts are under the Federal Court System while circuit courts are under the State Court System.
2.Decisions in district courts are appealed to the country’s Court of Appeals while the decisions in circuit courts are appealed to the state’s Court of Appeals.
3.The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are observed in district courts while the local procedural rules of the state or circuit are the ones followed by circuit courts.
4.District courts usually have a jury comprised of more individuals than circuit courts, and the former must meet a unanimous verdict to settle the trial.

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