The United States Courts of Appeals are intermediate appellate courts. They were created in 1891 to relieve overcrowding of the U.S. Supreme Court docket. The appeals courts are empowered to review all decisions of federal district courts, certain special courts, and administrative bodies, except in those few instances where direct review by the U.S. Supreme Court is mandated.

Under the United States Court of Appeals are thirteen judicial circuits. The fourth judicial circuit includes Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The Court sits at Richmond, Virginia, on the first full week of each month, October through June.

Since 1990, federal law has authorized fifteen judges to sit on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. They are appointed for life terms by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate. Traditionally, Maryland has had three judges on the Court.

The judge with seniority who is under 65 years of age is designated Chief Judge. The Chief Judge may serve no longer than seven years.

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