The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is an intermediate appellate court in the United States federal court system. It convenes in New Orleans, Louisiana, at the John Minor Wisdom U.S. Court of Appeals Building. (In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the court has been temporarily relocated to Houston, Texas and sits at the federal courthouse there.)
The Fifth Circuit hears appeals from United States District Courts in the states of Louisiana (3 district courts), Mississippi (2 district courts), and Texas (4 district courts). It currently has eighteen judges, three of whom are Senior Judges. The Chief Judge is Carolyn Dineen King.
From the end of the Civil War to 1981, the Fifth Circuit was much larger, encompassing the states of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia as well. These states were spun off in 1981 to form the Eleventh Circuit. As a result, Fifth Circuit cases from before 1981 are binding precedent in both the Fifth and Eleventh Circuits: because of this, attorneys generally cite cases from before 1981 as coming from "Former 5th Cir.," as opposed to just "5th Cir," especially if they're working in the Eleventh Circuit.
During the transition period in the autumn of 1981, the circuit was divided into two "units," Unit A (today's Fifth Circuit) and Unit B (today's Eleventh Circuit). Cases argued in Unit A are binding precedent in the Fifth Circuit but not in the Eleventh. Cases argued in Unit B are binding precedent in both circuits.
When the Fifth Circuit was first created in 1801, it consisted of Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. It was reorganized in 1802 to consist of North Carolina and Virginia. In 1842, Alabama and Louisiana were added to the circuit: this was the only time that an American judicial circuit consisted of non-contiguous states. In 1862, the circuit was moved south to consist of the rebel states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina; South Carolina was removed in 1866, and Texas and Louisiana were added on, to form the Fifth Circuit that lasted through the better part of the 20th century.