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Criminal Justice

Resources and help for topics relating to criminal justice.


What is Case Law?

When a court renders a decision in a matter, it may write an opinion of that decision that explains its ruling. Court opinions can provide researchers with the court’s interpretation of statutes and regulations, and their application to a set of facts. Depending on the circumstances, these opinions can also make new laws. In common law matters not covered by statutes or regulations, case law is the only source of primary legal authority.*


*From the Georgia State University Georgia Legal Research Guide

Federal and Georgia Courts

About the Federal Court System

Image of the U.S. showing which states belong to each circuit of the U.S. Federal Court System.

Download the Circuit Map


Court Cases

Federal courts have jurisdiction over cases involving:

  • the United States government,
  • the Constitution or federal laws, or
  • controversies between states or between the U.S. government and foreign governments.

For instance, a claim by an individual to receive money under a federal government program such as Social Security, a claim by the government that someone has violated federal laws, or a challenge to actions taken by a federal agency might all be heard in federal court.

In contrast, most family law matters are addressed in state court, since federal court jurisdiction granted by the U.S. Constitution does not include this area of law.

Few cases wind up in federal trial court, also called U.S. District Court. Judges encourage parties involved in a dispute to reach an agreement and avoid the expense and delay of a trial.

Landmark Cases

The impact of the federal courts on our lives is best known by landmark Supreme Court cases and other federal court cases that show the judicial branch is significant to the way we live and the rights we have.*

*From the About Federal Courts page  

Quick Links

This section of provides statistical data on the business of the Federal Judiciary. Specific publications address the work of the appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts; the probation and pretrial services systems; and other components of the U.S. courts.

Court Structure

The Federal Court System

The State Court System

Article III of the Constitution invests the judicial power of the United States in the federal court system. Article III, Section 1 specifically creates the U.S. Supreme Court and gives Congress the authority to create the lower federal courts.

The Constitution and laws of each state establish the state courts. A court of last resort, often known as a Supreme Court, is usually the highest court. Some states also have an intermediate Court of Appeals. Below these appeals courts are the state trial courts. Some are referred to as Circuit or District Courts.

Congress has used this power to establish the 13 U.S. Courts of Appeals, the 94 U.S. District Courts, the U.S. Court of Claims, and the U.S. Court of International Trade. U.S. Bankruptcy Courts handle bankruptcy cases. Magistrate Judges handle some District Court matters.

States also usually have courts that handle specific legal matters, e.g., probate court (wills and estates); juvenile court; family court; etc.

Parties dissatisfied with a decision of a U.S. District Court, the U.S. Court of Claims, and/or the U.S. Court of International Trade may appeal to a U.S. Court of Appeals.

Parties dissatisfied with the decision of the trial court may take their case to the intermediate Court of Appeals.

A party may ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals, but the Supreme Court usually is under no obligation to do so. The U.S. Supreme Court is the final arbiter of federal constitutional questions.

Parties have the option to ask the highest state court to hear the case.

Only certain cases are eligible for review by the U.S. Supreme Court.


Selection of Judges

The Federal Court System

The State Court System

The Constitution states that federal judges are to be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

They hold office during good behavior, typically, for life. Through Congressional impeachment proceedings, federal judges may be removed from office for misbehavior.

State court judges are selected in a variety of ways, including

  • election,
  • appointment for a given number of years,
  • appointment for life, and
  • combinations of these methods, e.g., appointment followed by election.


Types of Cases Heard

The Federal Court System

The State Court System

  • Cases that deal with the constitutionality of a law;
  • Cases involving the laws and treaties of the U.S.;
  • Cases involving ambassadors and public ministers;
  • Disputes between two or more states;
  • Admiralty law;
  • Bankruptcy; and
  • Habeas corpus issues.
  • Most criminal cases, probate (involving wills and estates)
  • Most contract cases, tort cases (personal injuries), family law (marriages, divorces, adoptions), etc.

State courts are the final arbiters of state laws and constitutions. Their interpretation of federal law or the U.S. Constitution may be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court may choose to hear or not to hear such cases.


*Tables copied from Comparing Federal & State Courts - United States Federal Courts

Middle District of Georgia 


Logo for the middle Georgia DistrictThe Columbus Courthouse, which was built in 1934, is a 3-story building located at the corner of 12th Street and Second Avenue. The building houses the U.S. District Court, U.S. Marshal, U.S. Probation, and U.S. Post Office.  The Columbus division serves Chattahoochee, Clay,  Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Quitman, Randolph, Stewart, Talbot, and Taylor counties. The U.S. District Court is comprised of five divisions encompassing seventy counties in the state of Georgia with offices in Athens, Albany, Columbus, Macon, and Valdosta.

Street Address: 

120 12th Street
Columbus, GA 31902

Mailing Address: 

U.S. Post Office & Court House
PO Box 124
Columbus, GA 31902
706-649-7816 (voice)
706-649-7790 (fax)

Other Georgia District Court Websites

U.S. District Courts U.S. District Courts
Georgia Middle
Georgia Northern
Georgia Southern
Georgia Middle
Georgia Northern
Georgia Southern

More Links


Southern District of Georgia


Logo for the souther district of Georgia federal courts. Georgia Southern District Court                                    

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia holds court in each of the six locations: Augusta, Brunswick, Dublin, Savannah, Waycross, and Statesboro. The Southern District of Georgia consists of 43 counties (click to view Georgia County Map for Southern District) in the southeastern part of the state.

Tomochichi United States Courthouse (Headquarters)

125 Bull Street

Savannah, GA 31401

Other Georgia District Court Websites


U.S. District Courts U.S. District Courts
Georgia Middle
Georgia Northern
Georgia Southern
Georgia Middle
Georgia Northern
Georgia Southern

Other Links

List of the Southern District Federal courts. 

Useful Links For the Southern District Courts

Northern District of Georgia Federal Courts


Georgia Northern District Court – Atlanta, GA (Headquarters)


Logo for the Northern District of Georgia Federal Courts.  All of the Northern District of Georgia Federal courts. 

The Northern District of Georgia was established by Congress in 1849 and consists of forty-six counties (14,258 square miles) in the northwestern part of the state. The district, which includes the Atlanta metropolitan area, has four divisions: Atlanta, Gainesville, Newnan, and Rome.

  • The Atlanta division includes the following counties: Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Newton, and Rockdale.
  • The Gainesville division includes the following counties: Banks, Barrow, Dawson, Fannin, Forsyth, Gilmer, Habersham, Hall, Jackson, Lumpkin, Pickens, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union, and White.
  • The Newnan division includes the following counties: Carroll, Coweta, Fayette, Haralson, Heard, Meriwether, Pike, Spalding, and Troup.
  • The Rome division includes the following counties: Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Gordon, Murray, Paulding, Polk, Walker, and Whitfield.

Other Georgia District Court Websites


U.S. District Courts U.S. District Courts
Georgia Middle
Georgia Northern
Georgia Southern
Georgia Middle
Georgia Northern
Georgia Southern


Other District Website

Northern District Locations

Alabama Federal Courts


Logo for the middle district court of AlabamaMiddle District Court of Alabama (Headquarters) - Montgomery, AL

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama is one of Alabama’s three judicial districts. The Alabama Middle District covers 23 counties in the central and southeastern parts of the state, and these 23 counties are further segmented into three divisions.

A courthouse is located in each division. The courthouse chosen for a court session depends on a number of factors, including the defendant’s place of residence or the number of defendants. The location may also be selected based on where the incident occurred.

Home to the Frank M. Johnson Jr U.S. Courthouse Complex, Montgomery is the seat of the ALMD Northern Division. The following counties are included in this division: Autauga, Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Chilton, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Elmore, Lowndes, Montgomery, and Pike.

*From the About the Courthouse section

Other Federal Alabama Courthouse Locations


U.S. District Courts U.S. Bankruptcy Courts
Alabama Middle
Alabama Northern
Alabama Southern
Alabama Middle
Alabama Northern
Alabama Southern

Georgia Case Reporters

For decades, print case reporters were the only source attorneys used to access published case law.  While more researchers are accessing case law online, it is still important to understand print case reporters. Only Georgia Supreme Court and Court of Appeals opinions designated for publication in a reporter will be the binding authority in Georgia.

There are four case reporters that publish Georgia court opinions: Georgia ReportsGeorgia Appeals ReportsSouth Eastern Reporter, and Georgia Cases.

Georgia Reports (Ga.)

Georgia Reports (Ga.) is the official reporter of the Supreme Court of Georgia opinions and includes all published opinions since 1846. 

Georgia Appeals Reports (Ga. App.)

Georgia Appeals Reports (Ga. App) is the official reporter of Georgia Court of Appeals opinions and includes all published opinions since 1907.

South Eastern Reporter (S.E.) 

The South Eastern Reporter (S.E.) is a regional reporter published by Thomson West, which includes Georgia appellate opinions, along with appellate opinions from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. While this is an unofficial reporter of Georgia Supreme Court and Court of Appeals opinions, researchers may find these reporters more useful than the official versions because they include headnotes with references to the West Topic and Key Number system. The South Eastern Reporter (S.E.) is currently in its second series, the South Eastern Reporter, 2nd. (S.E.2d).  

Georgia Cases (S.E.)

Georgia Cases (S.E.) is a Thomson West reporter that includes only Georgia cases published in the South Eastern Reporter (S.E.). This is a useful set for researchers who only need access to Georgia appellate opinions, and also want to take advantage of West headnotes and references to the West Topic and Key Number system. Georgia Cases (S.E.) utilizes the same citation system as the South Eastern Reporter (S.E.), and is also in its second series, Georgia Cases, 2nd. (S.E.2d).*

*From Georgia State University Case Law Library Guide

Free and Paid Subscription Access to Georgia Cases

Free Databases

Status information, opinions, and orders from the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Subscription Databases (Access provided to CSU Faculty, Staff, and Students)

Court Records

Find Federal Court Records

Find State and Superior Court Documents 


Reporters & Opinions

Federal and State Reporters

The Supreme Court 

  • U.S. Supreme Court cases are published in United States Report. This is the official government publication. You can find the United States Report through a very good Case Law Guide of the Library of Congress. The bound volumes are available electronically on the Supreme Court website in the Bound Volumes of the Opinions section. 
    • Westlaw publishes unofficial, commercial reporters for the Supreme Court cases
      • Westlaw -> Supreme Court Reporter

The United States Courts of Appeals

The United States District Courts 

State Reporters

  • About 30 states have reporters that publish state appellate cases for their own state

Regional Reporter

  • State cases are published in 7 different regional reporters. For example, cases from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia publish the Southeastern, S.E 2nd
  • This map shows which reporter contains state cases from a particular state. Use Bluebook T1.3 to see abbreviations for regional reporters


Supreme Court Published Opinions

Georgia Court Opinions