The Evolution of the Courts of the D.C. Circuit
by Carl Stern
For almost 200 years, the judicial system of the District of Columbia dealt with a commixture of federal and local concerns born of its unique character as the capital of all the states, yet not a state. Faced with the needs of a growing population and an increasingly complex federal government, Congress repeatedly reorganized the District of Columbia courts, reallocating jurisdiction for federal and local matters between the various courts, sometimes unifying the courts, sometimes dividing them.
An historic milestone was reached in 1971 when the federal courts in the District of Columbia finally shed their local jurisdiction as part of the movement toward giving the District home rule. Congress established two courts, the Superior Court, which is a court of general jurisdiction, and an appellate court, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, to assume responsibility for local matters, similar to that of state courts.
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