Territorial and Insular Courts

Congress has established the United States District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands, District of the Canal Zone, District Court of Guam, and District Court of the Virgin Islands in the territories and islands of U.S.  These are the territorial and insular (island-related) courts of U.S.

The Court of Appeals has jurisdiction of appeals from all final decisions of the U.S. District Court for the District of the Canal Zone, the District Court of Guam, and the District Court of the Virgin Islands.[i] However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has no jurisdiction over the territorial and insular courts.  The decisions of the Court of Appeals can be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.[ii] A direct review before the U.S. Supreme Court is also allowed from all final decisions of the U.S. District Court for the District of the Canal Zone, the District Court of Guam, and the District Court of the Virgin Islands.[iii]

Similarly, the U.S. Courts of Appeals reviews the final decisions of the District Court of the Northern Mariana Islands.[iv] However, the cases from the District Court of the Northern Mariana Islands are reviewable by the U.S. Courts of Appeals only if they are filed before May 1, 2004.  This is because after May 1, 2004, the relation between the courts of the Northern Mariana Islands and the federal judiciary is equivalent to the relationship between a state and the federal judiciary.[v]

According to the Supreme Court Rules, the term ‘state court’ includes the courts of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the local courts of Guam.  Additionally, the term ‘statutes’ in the Supreme Court Rules also includes the statutes of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Territory of Guam.

[i] 28 USCS § 1291

[ii] 28 USCS § 1291

[iii] 28 USCS § 1254

[iv] 48 USCS § 1823

[v] 48 USCS § 1824


Inside Territorial and Insular Courts