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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Difference between Trial Courts and Appellate Courts

LCCR/EF focuses on federal appellate courts, because the outcome of appeals cases have the potential to affect large numbers of people.

Trial Court Appellate Court
Federal trial courts are called district courts. Federal appellate courts are called courts of appeals. Cases can be further appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Cases are heard for the first time in a trial court. If either party disagrees with the decision in the trial court, they can appeal, asking a higher court to review the decision.
Cases only affect the people involved with the case. The outcome of appeals cases have the potential to affect large numbers of people, because these decisions are binding on district courts within the circuit.
The two sides present evidence and witnesses, and either a judge or a jury makes a decision based on the evidence presented. No new evidence is presented, the judge(s) simply review the materials from the original trial and determine whether the lower court made the correct legal decision.

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