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District of Columbia Courts Explained

The Washington, DC, court system shares many similarities with state courts, but with a few important caveats.

Published: October 2, 2023
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Washington, DC, may not be a state, but it is home to nearly 700,000 people, making it more populous than both Wyoming and Vermont. It also has its own local government, including a court system. This explainer provides a brief overview of the District of Columbia courts, as well as some of the similarities and differences between DC courts and state courts.

What is the District of Columbia? 

Washington, DC, is neither a state nor a territory of the United States. Instead, it is a federal district established pursuant to Congress’s authority under Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution, which authorizes Congress to establish a federal capital district over which it has the power to “exercise exclusive legislation.” 

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