Specialized Federal Courts

Congress has created a number of courts in the federal system that have specialized jurisdiction. Unlike constitutional courts, judges appointed to legislative courts do not enjoy lifetime tenure, unless Congress specifically authorized a life term. Moreover, judges in legislative courts do not enjoy the Constitutional prohibition against salary reductions of judges. A summary of these courts is as follows:

  • The United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces reviews court martial convictions from the armed forces. Only the Supreme Court of the United States can review its cases. Judges sitting on this court enjoy neither life tenure nor protection against salary reduction.
  • The United States Court of Federal Claims has jurisdiction to hear a broad range of claims brought against the United States. The court was called the United States Claims Court from 1982 to 1992. Many cases brought before this tribunal are tax cases, though the court also hears cases involving litigants who were federal employees and other parties with monetary claims against the United States. Judges sitting on this court enjoy neither life tenure nor protection against salary reduction. An adverse decision in this court is appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
  • The United States Court of International Trade has jurisdiction to hear cases involving customs, unfair import practices, and other issues regarding international trade. This court is a constitutional court, so its judges have lifetime tenure and protection against salary reduction.
  • The United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims reviews decisions of the Board of Veteran Appeals. Appointments of judges last 15 years. An adverse decision in this court is appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
  • The United States Tax Court is a legislative court that resolves disputes between citizens and the Internal Revenue Service. Appointments of judges last 15 years. Adverse decisions are appealed to a court of appeals in an appropriate regional circuit.

Inside Specialized Federal Courts