Jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit Courts

 

Jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit Courts

There are thirteen federal circuit courts. Each of these federal circuit courts has appellate jurisdiction over either a different region of the country or specific subject-matter.

All but one of the federal circuit courts handles immigration appeals. A published (for-precedent) decision issued by a federal circuit court is not only binding on all lower courts in its jurisdiction, but also on civil immigration matters arising in its jurisdiction. Decisions of federal circuit courts are subject to judicial review by the Supreme Court of the United States. However, due to the fact that the Supreme Court reviews relatively few cases each term, most published federal circuit court decisions remain durable precedents.

Below, we will list the federal circuit courts along with the areas and/or subject matter over which they exercise jurisdiction. We will include notes with a few of the federal circuit courts.

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Exercises Jurisdiction Over: District of Colombia
Although the D.C. Circuit has the smallest geographic jurisdiction of any of the federal circuit courts with geographic jurisdiction, it is considered by many to be primus inter pares (first among equals) of the federal circuit courts due to the fact that it hears the most appeals involving federal regulations and agency actions. The D.C. Circuit sets many important administrative law precedents, sometimes specifically affecting immigration, which have an effect on immigration law generally. However, it handles relatively few immigration appeals compared to the eleven circuits with larger geographic jurisdictions.

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Exercises Jurisdiction Over: Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, and Vermont
The First Circuit has the second smallest geographic jurisdiction of any of the federal circuit courts having geographic jurisdiction.

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

Exercises Jurisdiction Over: Connecticut, New York, and Vermont
Although The Law Offices of Grinberg & Segal, PLLC, handle immigration cases nationwide, we deal relatively often with the Second Circuit due to the fact that our law office is based in New York and we draw many of our clients from the Connecticut-New Jersey-New York tri-state area.

United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Exercises Jurisdiction Over: Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and U.S. Virgin Islands
The Third Circuit is another circuit in which The Law Offices of Grinberg & Segal handle many appeals due to our proximity to New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It is worth noting for residents of New York and New Jersey that these two states fall under the jurisdiction of different circuits.

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

Exercises Jurisdiction Over: Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Virginia

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Exercises Jurisdiction Over: Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas
The Fifth Circuit considers a high number of cases involving border issues due to the inclusion of Texas within its jurisdiction.

United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Exercises Jurisdiction Over: Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Exercises Jurisdiction Over: Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin
The Law Offices of Grinberg & Segal won in a case that became a noteworthy published decision in the Seventh Circuit, Boika v. Holder, 727 F.3d 735 (7th Cir. 2013) [see success story] [see wiki].

United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Exercises Jurisdiction Over: Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Exercises Jurisdiction Over: Alaska, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Nevada, Northern Mariana Islands, Washington
The Ninth Circuit has by far the largest geographic jurisdiction of the federal circuit courts, a designation it would have even if it only exercised jurisdiction over California. Because of its vast geographic scope and its inclusion of California, the Ninth Circuit considers by far the most immigration appeals of any of the federal circuit courts. That its decisions affect so many cases makes it highly influential in the area of immigration appeals.

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Exercises Jurisdiction Over: Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming

United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

Exercises Jurisdiction Over: Alabama, Florida, and Georgia
The Eleventh Circuit has the second largest geographic jurisdiction of the federal circuit courts after the Ninth.

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit

Exercises Jurisdiction Over: Subject-Matter
The Federal Circuit exercises subject-matter jurisdiction rather than geographic jurisdiction. It has nationwide jurisdiction over “international trade, government contracts, patents, trademarks, certain money claims against the United States government, federal personnel, veterans' benefits, and public safety officers' benefit claims” [PDF version]. It does not have jurisdiction over appeals from civil immigration decisions, meaning that it is virtually a non-entity in the area of immigration appeals.

Conclusion

Understanding which federal circuit court an immigration issue arises in is often crucial to understanding how best to seek to resolve the case. In some cases, federal circuit courts may reach different conclusions on essentially the same question, meaning that the relevant immigration law in one state may be different than the same law as applied in another state. Although the Supreme Court may opt, with the appropriate case, to resolve such a circuit split, many circuit splits persist for years. The complexity of immigration law issues and immigration appeals is one of many reasons that individuals with immigration questions should consult with an experienced immigration attorney immediately.

Please see our article explaining which Supreme Court Justice handles emergency appeals from each circuit [see article].