Federal Courts



Bankruptcy Courts  

U.S. Court of Appeals  


United States District Courts.  

A. In Missouri there are two districts of the federal courts:

1. The Western District is based in Kansas City, but also holds court in Springfield and Jefferson City.

2. The Eastern District is based in St. Louis, but also hears cases in Hannibal and Cape Girardeau.

B. These trial courts of general jurisdiction hear civil and criminal cases arising under federal laws.

C. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. Their jurisdiction includes:

1. Cases arising under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States (28 U.S.C. section 1331);

2. Actions between citizens of different states, or citizens of a state and citizens and subjects of a foreign state, where the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 (28 U.S.C. section 1332);

3. Cases filed in state courts between citizens of different states, or citizens of a state and citizens or subjects of a foreign state, may be removed by one of the parties to the federal court (28 U.S.C. section 1441);

4. Civil rights cases, election disputes, commerce and anti-trust cases, postal matters, Internal Revenue and other enumerated types of cases (28 U.S.C. sections 1331-1364).

D. Federal procedures are similar to those in state courts. However, there are some material differences. One of the most significant is the use of six-person juries in civil cases and the requirement of unanimous jury verdicts in all cases (a nine-person verdict is permitted in state court civil cases). In addition, a jury must be specifically requested in a civil case or it is waived. In general, the federal court system makes the judge a more active participant in the trial process than in state courts.

United States Bankruptcy Courts.

A. There are two bankruptcy courts in Missouri, which are units of the federal district courts. They have the same boundaries as the district courts and hold court sessions in the same cities. In addition, the bankruptcy court in the Western District holds court in St. Joseph and Carthage on a monthly basis.

B. Under the Bankruptcy Act of 1978, the bankruptcy courts have exclusive jurisdiction of all property of a debtor (wherever the property is located) after the debtor or his creditors commence a bankruptcy case.

1. The bankruptcy court has jurisdiction to handle all civil proceedings arising under the Bankruptcy Code and also civil proceedings related to cases arising under the Code; therefore, its jurisdiction is quite broad.

C. Venue for bankruptcy cases is in the district where the debtor has lived for 180 days (or the majority of 180 days) immediately before the filing of the case. Cases may, of course, be transferred to other districts in the interest of justice and for the convenience of the parties.

D. Rules and court procedures are generally similar to those in the federal district courts.

United States Circuit Court of Appeals.

A. There are 11 United States Circuit Courts of Appeals. Missouri is in the Eighth Circuit, which includes Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Missouri. (See map.)

B. There are 11 judges on the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. It hears appeals from trials in the District Court and appeals from certain federal administrative agencies in the above states.