Initial Appearance Before the District Court

After arraignment, the magistrate adds the matter to the calendar for the district court. A district court judge, or “Article III” judge, is appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and serves for life. The defense will know which district court judge is assigned to the case when it receives the indictment – the last three letters of the case number are the judge’s initials. The district court judge will preside over the rest of the case, for all hearings, the trial, and sentencing.

At the first appearance before the district court, the parties generally put the matter over for “status.” This gives the public defender an opportunity to review the evidence (“discovery”) in the case, to identify any potential motions, and to discuss any proposed pretrial dispositions (deals) with the prosecutor. At the next appearance, the parties usually set a briefing schedule for pretrial motions.