Just as jurisdiction as a basic legal concept refers to the bounds and limitations of judicial power, the sub-category comprised of appellate jurisdiction consists of the ability of a court to hold the decisions and rulings of other courts up to examination, and if deemed necessary, to reverse or otherwise alter them. In this way, appellate jurisdiction provides for the hierarchical pecking order which defines the relationship of courts in the same legal system and general area to each other. The court with appellate jurisdiction over another is accordingly identified as the “higher” of the two courts.
In terms of the specific legal system of the United States structure of justice, the ultimate source of appellate jurisdiction, as is vested with the United States Supreme Court, is provided for by the country’s Constitution, specifically the language of Article Three. In general, when a court has been provided with appellate jurisdiction, it will accordingly draw up a standard of review to determine, both for its own use and that of others in addition, when it will hold the decisions of lower courts to a harsh light and when it will allow for a degree of lenience and defer to the good judgment of lower courts.
In American judicial practice and theory, appellate jurisdiction is generally understood to provide for the task of attending to whether the lower court correctly carried out its legal duties in the circumstances of the particular legal case at question, but not to carrying out the same functions of gathering facts and reviewing evidence.