The federal court system is made up of federal district courts (trial level courts), courts of appeals (appellate level courts), and the Supreme Court of the United States. In addition, the federal court system has special courts that hear specific types of cases. This article describes special federal courts.

U.S. Bankruptcy Courts

If a debtor cannot pay his debts when they become due, the debtor is insolvent. A bankrupt is someone who, by a judicial proceeding, has been declared unable to pay his debts. A bankruptcy case cannot be filed in state court; the federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over bankruptcy. The goal of a bankruptcy proceeding is to give a debtor a new start by relieving most debts and to repay creditors to the extent the debtor is able to do so.

U.S. Court of Federal Claims

The federal government has sovereign immunity, which means it cannot be sued without its consent. By the Federal Tort Claims Act, the federal government waived its immunity from tort (personal injury) suits. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims hears claims for money damages against the United States government. The Court of Federal Claims also decides federal contract disputes and federal eminent domain or property "taking" disputes.

U.S. Court of International Trade

The U.S. Court of International Trade hears cases dealing with international trade and customs duties.

U.S. Tax Court

The U.S. Tax Court hears disputes between taxpayers and the Internal Revenue Service for underpayment of federal income tax, gift tax, and estate tax.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces has appellate jurisdiction over members of the armed forces on active duty. The court hears criminal appeals in the military justice system.

U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals for Veterans Claims

If the Board of Veterans Appeals denies a veterans' affairs (VA) claim, the claimant can appeal to the U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals for Veterans Claims. Most of the cases heard by the Court of Veterans Appeals involve disability or survivor benefits. The Court of Veterans Appeals also hears appeals of denial of education benefits and life insurance.

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