At Kish & Lietz, we mostly practice federal criminal defense here in Atlanta, throughout Georgia and in other nearby states. While this is the bulk of our practice, we also handle cases in a variety of other courts and jurisdictions. Some of our work is in court at the trial level. We also represent our clients if the case goes to an appellate court.
To begin with, it is important to remember that there are two different court systems in our country. One group are the “federal courts”. The other courts are often referred to as “state court.”
The federal courts are created by and generally apply laws passed by the United States Congress. Many people know about the United States Supreme Court, which is the highest court in our country. The Supreme Court sits in Washington, and takes a limited number of high-profile matters. We have filed many petitions in the U.S. Supreme Court, and have enjoyed the honor of being part of the team that actually won a federal criminal case in the Supreme Court. Just below the Supreme Court are twelve federal Courts of Appeal. These are, for the most part, divided by geographic region. All federal matters arising in Georgia, Florida or Alabama go the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the home offices of which are here in Atlanta, a few blocks from our office. We regularly handle matters in the Eleventh Circuit, and our lawyers have filed and argued hundreds of cases in that court (and have won a significant number of appeals in that court). Finally, the federal trial courts are below the Courts of Appeal. These are called “District Courts”, and also are divided up by geographic area. For example, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia handles federal cases in the northern one-third of Georgia, including Atlanta and nearby areas.
Each state has its own, parallel, court system. Georgia’s system is similar to the federal arrangement, with a Supreme Court, an intermediate Court of Appeals, and various trial courts in each county.
As a general rule, an attorney needs to be a member of the Bar for each federal court in which he or she wants to practice. Our attorneys are members or the Bar in multiple federal courts. If we encounter a federal case in a District where our lawyers have never previously practiced, we either obtain permission to practice there or sometimes get “local counsel,” an attorney who is our on-the-ground representative in that area. We often perform the same service for lawyers from out-of-state who have a federal criminal case here in Atlanta. When it comes to the State Court system, our lawyers are licensed to practice in any court any place in Georgia.
Whichever court system a person finds him or herself in, that person needs an attorney who knows the laws and rules. For more information on federal crimes, see our Federal Crimes practice area page. Georgia has an entirely separate set of crimes and procedures, some of which are very different than what is found in the federal court system. Not only are the actual crimes often described differently in the Georgia versus the federal system, there are also significant distinctions between the procedures and other rules. The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and the Federal Rules of Evidence are the same in every federal court, from Alaska down to Florida. However, each state has sometimes wildly different procedural rules. While each county in Georgia is supposed to use the same basic rules, we find that some areas have a distinctly local application of the standardized rules.