Federal Courts

Federal Court Jurisdictions

When it comes to figuring out the federal court system in the United States and where your case will go, it really has to do with where the alleged crime took place, and then that jurisdiction will be the one that the case goes to. So, it will be close to the federal court to the jurisdiction where the crime took place.

Now, this can get confusing sometimes because sometimes a crime can occur in multiple jurisdictions, and that just, I think, really has to do with what law enforcement agency — the FBI or whoever the federal investigators are — gets involved with. Then that's probably going to dictate where the case ends up.

Another thing that is confusing to people is how come my case is going to federal court instead of state court.  The feds pick and choose their cases.  There are a lot of cases that could be prosecuted federally or criminally, but the feds have certain policies which dictate which cases they're going to deal with and which cases they're not going to deal with.

So, trying to get into the inner workings of that is not going to be very easy, especially for somebody who's never been involved in the court system.  But suffice it to say, if you've got a federal criminal case it's going to be prosecuted in whatever jurisdiction that you are.

Roybal Federal Courthouse in Los Angeles

For example, the central district here in Los Angeles.  If you've got a case, it's going to start out at the Roybal building.  You'll be sent to the courtroom there, that pretty much does all the post-indictment arraignments.  You'll be given your charges, the indictment.  You'll eventually be assigned to the court. 

You'll be entitled to argue whether you get released or detained by the federal system, and then you'll end up being assigned to a judge.  Then the case will either stay at the Roybal building or be moved to the new federal courthouse that was built on First Street near Broadway not too long ago.

Ronald Regan Federal Court in Santa Ana

There are also other courts close to this jurisdiction.  Orange County has a court, Santa Ana federal court.  It's a Ronald Reagan court.  So, cases in that jurisdiction near Santa Ana are obviously going to be prosecuted there.  There are federal courts all over the place — all over the nation, for that matter.  So, when it comes to fifing out our court, you're going to want to sit down with your attorney.

Your attorney will be able to contact the agents, the prosecutor, and also either court system and then be able to tell you exactly where your case is being prosecuted, what the tendencies are with that particular courthouse — the judges and the prosecutors — and then you should be able to get a pretty good feel for what you're up against.

Of course, a lot of it is going to be dictated not just by the courthouse but also by your criminal record, what you did in this particular case, and the extent of the damage that you allegedly caused — whether it was a theft and there's a bunch of money lost, the amount of drugs that were involved if it's a drug case.

There are a whole bunch of different scenarios that can crop up in federal criminal cases.  But establishing your courthouse, figuring out where it is, who's in charge of your case is important because then you're going to know whether you're dealing with a conservative entity or whether it's more liberal and forgiving and reasonable because that's going to dictate how you litigate your federal criminal case.

Whether you're going to need to take a hard line and fight everything or whether it makes more sense to try to be cooperative and work with the prosecutors based on your circumstances.

District of North Dakota

The State of North Dakota has only one Federal District, the District of North Dakota. Article 3 Judges preside in two locations: Bismarck, ND (state capital) and Fargo, ND (the most populous city in the state). There are additional satellite court locations in Minot, ND, and Grand Forks, ND.

Bismarck address: William L. Guy Federal Bldg., U.S. Courthouse, 220 East Rosser Ave. #476, Bismarck ND 58502-1193. Fargo Address: Quentin N. Burdick, U.S. Courthouse, 655 1st Ave. North, #130, Fargo ND 58102-4932. Judge Daniel Hovland presides in Bismarck and handles the cases for the western part of the state. The Magistrate serving the Bismarck location is Magistrate Charles S. Miller, Jr.

Judge Ralph Erikson presided over the Fargo location, handling the cases arising east of Bismarck, before being elevated to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals by President Trump. The Magistrate serving the Fargo location is Magistrate Judge Alice R. Senechal. Judge Hovland has four law clerks. Magistrate Miller has two law clerks. Magistrate Senechal has two law clerks.

The court was created in 1889 when the Dakotas were divided into two separate states. A second judgeship was created in 1954, and the Court has had two Article 3 judges since then. The US Attorney's Office for the District of North Dakota is headquartered in Fargo, ND, but there is a staffed branch office is located in Bismarck, ND. Unstaffed branch offices are located in Grand Forks, ND and Minot, ND.

The US Attorney serving the District of North Dakota is Christopher C. Myers. US Attorney's Office addresses:

  • Quentin N. Burdick United States Courthouse, U.S. Attorney's Office, 655 First Avenue North, Suite 250, Fargo, ND 58102-4932
  • William L. Guy Federal Building, U.S. Attorney's Office, 220 East Rosser Ave, Room 372, Bismarck, ND 58502-0699

The Federal Public Defender for the District of North Dakota is Neil Fulton. He jointly serves the District of South Dakota. The Federal Public Defender's Office has branch offices in Bismarck, ND, and Grand Forks, ND.

Four Indian reservations are located in the District: Spirit Lake, Fort Berthold, Standing Rock, and Turtle Mountain. Federal Public Defender's Office addresses:

  • Federal Plaza, 324 North 3rd Street, Suite 1, Bismarck, ND 58501
  • Federal Square, Second Floor, 112 Roberts Street North, Suite 200, Fargo, ND 58102

The District of North Dakota has one bankruptcy court located in Fargo, ND. Bankruptcy court address: Quentin N. Burdick United States Courthouse, 655 1st Ave North, Suite 210, Fargo, ND 58102. Chief Judge Shon Hastings is the United States Bankruptcy Judge for the District of North Dakota.

Consult with Our Law Firm to Develop a Strategy

Obviously, no one's going to be able to make that decision.  No one's going to be able to tell you that unless and until they have all the information related to your case, have talked to the prosecutor, and have looked at the discovery related to your case.

Then, of course, I talk to you about it and get your input on the case. Then you start to make your decision as to exactly how you're going to handle the case, what moves are going to be made, what evidence is going to be brought forward, what motions might be filed, whether you're going to negotiate with the prosecutors are not, whether you're going to go to a jury trial.

So, pick up the phone if you've got a federal case and you're trying to figure out what court it's in and exactly how the case is going to play out.  Your first move is to meet with a seasoned federal criminal defense attorney and let them begin the process of guiding you through the system and getting you out of it as fast as possible.

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