We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Circuit Court?

By Darlene Goodman
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
MyLawQuestions is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At MyLawQuestions, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

At its most basic level, a circuit court is a group of courts that works together as a regional justice system. These courts typically try cases and hear appeals from within the region. The court systems vary in scope and purpose, from region to region and from country to country. For example, the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK) have had circuit courts, but each served a different function to their country’s judiciary.

Historically, a circuit court was a series of court sessions held in different parts of a region at different times. Before the advent of modern transportation and communications, many areas had no local courts where legal matters could be heard, so judges and lawyers often traveled from place to place to hear cases and dispense justice. They typically toured a defined circuit.

This circuit court system was originally a way to bring the laws of the nation into localities where there was no access to judges or lawyers. For the most part, this historical definition is no longer applicable, as circuits have been replaced by permanent court systems in most regions. Several countries maintain the title of circuit court for some part of their judicial systems.

In the US, the term 'circuit court' appears at both the federal and the state level. Congress has divided the country into judicial circuits that typically handle both original cases, or first instance, and appeals from within their region. There are eleven numbered circuits and the District of Columbia (DC) Circuit, as well as the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which typically decides appeals regarding patent law.

Many states within the US have their own circuit court system. Each circuit determines the level of jurisdiction its courts will have, but most are trial courts that handle a variety of cases. Most state circuits are divided into district courts, and some divide even further to include separate court systems for different categories of law. For instance, many circuits have separate family courts, drug courts, and small claims courts.

In the UK, the term 'circuit court' is still unofficially used to refer to seven regional courts established in 2005 by Her Majesty’s Court Service (HMCS). Before 2005, these region courts were called circuit courts, and they were presided over by a circuit judge. The region courts have original jurisdiction over cases from their region, but not typically over appeals cases. HMCS still appoints circuit judges to each region.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By SZapper — On Jun 28, 2011

@Monika - Yes, times certainly have changed. It's interesting how the terminology lives on even though the justices no longer travel on a "circuit". I wonder if the name will eventually change.

By Monika — On Jun 25, 2011

I had no idea circuit courts were called that because justices used to travel around the region on a "circuit". That is so interesting. I can only imagine how much different it would have been to have to wait for the court to come to you instead of going to the court. I wonder if people even had any idea when the justices would arrive?

Modern times have sure made the process more streamlined though. We always know where the county circuit court is because it's in one location instead of traveling around!

MyLawQuestions, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

MyLawQuestions, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.