Welcome and Introduction


Welcome to "Connections: You, Your Courts, Your Democracy," the civics and outreach site of the federal courts of the Sixth Circuit.  Civics is the study of the rights and duties of citizens and of the workings of government.  Our goal for this site is to make it easier for you to learn about the role of the federal courts in the democracy we all share, as well as the role of every citizen in the operation of the courts.  We also hope it helps you connect with your federal courts on matters of civics education.

The Sixth Circuit consists of all of the federal courts in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.  These federal courts include United States District Courts, where trials are held; United States Bankruptcy Courts; and the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, where appeals are heard.  Across the nation, there is a federal district court within a day's drive for most people.  Here in the Sixth Circuit, your federal courts are much closer.  We hope this site brings them closer still.  And as co-chairs of the Sixth Circuit's Civics and Outreach Committee, we thank former Chief Judge R. Guy Cole of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit for establishing the committee and for his support and encouragement of this project.

Whether you are a student, a teacher, or a member of the public, we are glad you are here.

Hon. Curtis L. Collier, Co-Chair
Sixth Circuit Civics and Outreach Committee
District Judge, Eastern District of Tennessee
Hon. Michael J. Newman, Co-Chair
Sixth Circuit Civics and Outreach Committee
District Judge, Southern District of Ohio


The federal judiciary from its inception has depended upon the support of the public to a much greater degree than the two other branches of the federal government.  Speaking of the Supreme Court, Alexis de Tocqueville said: “Their power is enormous, but it is the power of public opinion. They are all-powerful as long as the people respect the law; but they would be impotent against popular neglect or contempt of the law.” Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons the federal judiciary, along with most other public institutions, has fallen into a state of declining public confidence.  Some of this loss in public confidence can be attributed to a lack of knowledge of the purpose and function of the federal judiciary by many citizens.  According to two recent annual Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey, September 8, 2017, only twenty-six percent of respondents could name the three branches of government.  The U.S. Supreme Court is polling at or near its lowest level in over thirty years.  To address this decline in public confidence and lack of knowledge about the purpose and function of the federal judiciary, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit established a committee to promote civics education, with a focus on the role and function of the federal judiciary in our democracy.

The purpose of this project is to help increase points of contact between the courts and the communities they serve, to facilitate mutual understanding, and help to ensure that the courts are accessible and effective public institutions. To that end, our mission encompasses two principal approaches: to bring the communities to the courts, and to bring the courts to the communities. In particular, we seek to encourage, develop, and support programs in civic education for all members of the public, especially students, and to engage the community through outreach efforts.

The resources on this site are made available to help educators, students, the media, and other members of the public learn more about the federal courts.