BOARD OF IMMIGRATION APPEALS
The Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) is the part of the Executive Office for Immigration Review that reviews the decisions of the Immigration Courts and some decisions of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
It is an administrative appellate body that is part of the United States Department of Justice. BIA decisions are the final administrative action in a given case. The next stage of appeal after a BIA decision is usually in the U.S. Court of Appeals, (see below) if an appeal is allowed by statute.
The BIA is located in Falls Church, Virginia, and as of April 2009 has 14 Board Members, who are administrative judges appointed by the U.S. Attorney General. The size of the full BIA varies from time to time, depending on resignations, retirements and new appointments; it may have up to 15 Board Members under the current authorizing legislation. However, following the practice of appellate courts, many decisions of the BIA are by panels that are composed of only a few Board Members.
US COURT OF APPEALS (US Circuit Courts)
A court of appeals decides appeals from the district courts within its federal judicial circuit, and in some instances from other designated federal courts and administrative agencies. The United States Courts of Appeals serves as the final arbiter on most federal cases.
The United States Courts of Appeals are considered among the most powerful and influential courts in the United States. This is mostly due to their ability to set legal precedent in regions that cover millions of people. Thus, the United States Courts of Appeals have strong policy influence on US law.
There are currently 179 Judges on the United States Courts of Appeals authorized by Congress and Article III of the US Constitution. These judges are nominated by the President of the United States, and if confirmed by the United States Senate have lifetime tenure, earning an annual salary of $184,500.
There currently are thirteen United States courts of appeals. The eleven numbered circuits and the D.C. Circuit are geographically defined. The thirteenth court of appeals is the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which has nationwide jurisdiction over certain appeals based on their subject matter.
All of the courts of appeals also hear appeals from some administrative agency decisions and rulemaking. The Federal Circuit hears appeals from specialized trial courts, primarily the United States Court of International Trade and the United States Court of Federal Claims, as well as appeals from the district courts in patent cases and certain other specialized matters.
Decisions of the United States courts of appeals are available online. Usually only decisions that the courts designate for publication are included. The “unpublished” opinions (of all but the Fifth and Eleventh Circuits) are published separately.
The circuit with the smallest number of appellate judges is the First Circuit, and the one with the largest number of appellate judges is the geographically-large and populous Ninth Circuit on the West Coast. The number of judges that the U.S. Congress has authorized for each circuit is set forth by law in 28 U.S.C. 44.
Based on 2008 U.S. census estimates, the population residing in each circuit is as follows.
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[i] Source: Wikipedia.com