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The United States district courts are the general trial courts of the United States federal judiciary. Both civil and criminal cases are filed in district courts, each of which is a court of law, equity, and admiralty. There is a United States bankruptcy court associated with each United States district court. Each federal judicial district has at least one courthouse, and many districts have more than one. Most decisions of district courts may be appealed to the respective court of appeals of their circuit, with a small number instead being appealable to the Federal Circuit, or directly to the Supreme Court. In contrast to the Supreme Court, which was established by Article III of the Constitution, the district courts were established by Congress under the Judiciary Act of 1789. There is no constitutional requirement that district courts exist at all. Indeed, after the ratification of the Constitution, some opponents of a strong federal judiciary urged that, outside jurisdictions under direct federal control, like Washington, D. C., and the territories, the federal court system be limited to the Supreme Court, which would hear appeals from state courts. This view did not prevail, however, and the first Congress created the district court system that is still in place today. When the Act was first passed, there were thirteen districts created among the eleven states which had ratified the constitution by that point.
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