The federal courts form the Judicial Branch of the federal government.

There are both federal and state courts. The two kinds of courts are the result of a feature in the Constitution called federalism.

Federalism gives some functions to the United States government, while leaving the other functions to the states. The functions of the U. S. - or federal - government, concern the whole nation and included such tasks as cleaning up our national waterways, providing for national defense, and supervising our national parks. State and local governments perform functions like running public schools, managing police departments, and paving streets.

Federal courts are created by the U. S. government. State courts are established by a state, or by a county or city within the state.

Federal courts usually hear only cases in which the United States is a party (participant), cases involving violations of the Constitution or federal laws, cases involving foreign diplomats, and some special cases such as bankruptcy cases and cases concerning incidents at sea. Federal courts also hear cases based on state laws that involve parties from different states. Federal courts are also authorized to admit foreigners to U. S. citizenship (naturalization).

State courts handle the kinds of cases the public is most likely to be involved in, such as robberies, assaults, and traffic violations. The general, unlimited jurisdiction of state courts allows them to decide almost every type of case.