The branch of law that regulates the conduct of individuals, defines crimes, and specifies punishments for criminal acts. The branch of law that deals with disputes that do not involve criminal penalties. Precedent: a prior case whose principles are used by judges as the basis of their decision in the present case. Precedent is applied under the doctrine of stare decisis. Trial court: the first court to hear a case. Cases involving federal laws, treaties with other nations, or the u. s. constitution go to federal court. Jurisdiction: the sphere of a court"s power and authority. Article iii of the constitution: gives the supreme court original jurisdiction in limited variety of classes. The highest court in the nation; the court of last resort. Federal judges are nominated by the president and confirmed by u. s. senate. There are no formal qualifications for service as a federal judge.