History in the making:The Fifth Circuit United States Court of Appeals hears appeals in El Paso
El Paso — For the first time in its 122-year history, the United States Court of Appeals for
the Fifth Circuit will hear appellate cases in El Paso’s federal courthouse next week.
Chief Judge of the Fifth Circuit, Carl E. Stewart, former Chief Judge Carolyn Dineen
King, and Circuit Court Judge Edward C. Prado will hear argument in sixteen appeals
during their week-long stay in El Paso. The three judges will also be in El Paso to
inaugurate the new special proceedings courtroom in the Albert Armendariz, Sr.
United States Courthouse downtown and to speak to several groups of UTEP
“The El Paso Federal district judges are delighted that the Fifth Circuit Court
of Appeals will sit in our community for the first time in its history,” said United
States District Court Judge Philip R. Martinez, the Chief Judge of the Western District
of Texas El Paso Division’s four federal trial courts housed in the Armendariz
courthouse. “It affords the El Paso community the opportunity to witness the
business of the federal appellate court whose decisions affect the lives of individuals
residing in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi,” he added.
The Fifth Circuit Court handles civil and criminal appeals from the federal
district courts of three states—Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.. The Court normally
hears cases in its courthouse in New Orleans, Louisiana. On rare occasions, however,
a three-judge panel of the seventeen-member court will travel to other venues within
the Court’s jurisdiction.
Although cases are submitted to the court through written legal briefs, lawyers
from both sides are sometimes asked to present their appeal to the Court in a process
known as oral argument. Each side has 20 minutes to argue and respond to questions
from the three-judge panel. Oral arguments in El Paso begin at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday,
September 2, 2013 in the 8th Floor special proceedings courtroom in the Armendariz
federal courthouse. Members of the public may attend arguments although seating
may be limited.
A federal criminal or civil case begins its life in a federal district trial court,
often before a jury. Either party in a civil suit, or a defendant in a criminal suit, has
the right to appeal to a federal circuit court of appeals if they disagree with the
outcome of the case in the trial court . Generally, the United States Supreme Court
cannot hear a case until a circuit court of appeals had first ruled on the appeal. There
are 13 federal circuit courts around the country—the Fifth Circuit Court is one of the
busiest courts of appeals in the country handling thousands of appeals each year.