Federal Courts—Professor Goodman
I. Introduction: Article III and the First Judiciary Act
a. Articles of Confederation
i. Proven unworkable by 1787.
ii. The Federal government had to rely on the states for implementation and enforcement too much, and that was something that the States were increasingly unwilling to do.
iii. Big problems in the areas of taxing and foreign affairs.
iv. Burgeoning Commercialism
1. States were heavily in debt from the Revolution.
2. Some authorized paper money, something that was expected to cause inflation.
3. Push in the State Legislatures for debtor relief laws.
v. Against this backdrop, nationalists or “Federalists” began to push for a new, strengthened, more virtuous national government.
1. To these folks, paper money and the abolition of debts reflected a loss of honor in state governments and underscored the weakened federal government’s inability to do anything about it.
b. Constitutional Convention
1. Pushed for a strong, national government.
2. Favored representative institutions with elite, enlightened leaders above the fray of state and local politics.
1. Sought to maintain the centrality and importance of local institutions.
2. Suspicious of political elitism.
3. Weary of the Constitution as a whole, but also of the establishment of lower federal courts out of concern that such courts would be hard-nosed in enforcing debts and would undo much of the work these groups had done is ensuring debtor-friendly legislation in the various states.
iii. Six Major Decisions
1. There should be a federal judiciary with power over both states and individuals.
2. The power of that judiciary should be vested in one Supreme Court and in whatever inferior courts Congress may authorize.
3. The federal judiciary should be as “independent as the lot of humanity will admit.”
4. That power should be strictly judiciary.
5. That power should extend to nine specific classes of case.
6. In certain cases, the Supreme Court would have original jurisdiction, while in the remainder, it would have appellate jurisdiction.
iv. Judiciary Article
1. The Federal Judiciary Power
a. That a national judiciary should be established passed unanimously.
b. The transition from ad-hoc tribunals and the appointment of state courts under the AoC to something much more centralized and formalized.
c. This unanimity soon gave way to intense disagreement over the kinds of tribunals who would exercise this power and the type of disputes over which they would have jurisdiction.
2. The Tribunals Exercising the Power
a. “One supreme tribunal, and . . . one or more inferior tribunals.”
b. Rutledge pushed for no inferior tribunals at all—thought the state courts should be left to handle all cases in the first instance, and that the one Supreme Court was “sufficient to secure the national rights and uniformity of Judgment: that it was making an unnecessary encroachment on the jurisdiction of the States.”
c. Madison opposed this vigorously.
i. “Unless inferior federal tribunals were dispersed throughout the Republic with final jurisdiction in many cases, appeals would be multiplied to a most oppressive degree.”
ii. Concerns over judicial economy at the appellate level from a very early date.
d. Rutledge won initially.
e. But see The Madisonian Compromise.
i. There would be no absolute creation of the inferior tribunals, but the Legislature would have the power to create or appoint them.
3. Separation and Independence of the Judicial Power
a. Appointment of Judges
i. Appointment by the executive with the advice and consent of the Senate.
ii. Borne out of a compromise as well—the legislature was deemed not qualified to assess judicial qualifications, and Senate appointment, it was feared, would preserve too much power for the states.
b. Tenure & Salary
i. Protection of tenure during good behavior, and guarantee against pay decreases passed with near unanimity.
c. Extra-Judicial Functions
i. Early proposal to make the federal judiciary part of a “council of revision.”
1. This would examine and review every act of the National Legislature before it was passed.
2. And do the same for every negative by the National Legislature over an act of a state legislature.
3. This was rejected à did not want to mingle judiciary and executive functions.
4. A purely executive veto was substituted.
4. The Power to Declare Statutes Unconstitutional
a. The idea—and propriety—of judicial review seemed to be taken for granted at the Convention and pervaded discussion of other issues, though it was never squarely taken up.
b. Check on state legislatures.
i. Buoyed by the Supremacy Clause.
c. And on the National Legislature as well.
i. This was widely recognized and raised several times throughout the Convention.
5. The Scope of Federal Jurisdiction
i. Established some basic rules—a C.J. and 5 Associate Justices.
b. The Circuit & District Courts
i. The establishment of a system of lower courts is what Frankfurter deemed the Act’s “transcendent achievement.”
ii. Two Tiers.
1. District Courts.
a. Each with its own judge.
2. Circuit Courts.
a. Without their own designated judges.
1. District Courts.
a. Entirely Original.
b. Partly exclusive of state court jurisdiction and partly concurrent.
2. Circuit Courts.
a. Also had some important original jurisdiction.
3. First Three Revisited: Subject Matter
a. Arising Under
i. Made no general use of this power vis a vis controversies arising under the Constitution or the law of the United States.
ii. Some slight exceptions for land seizures, crimes & offenses, etc.
b. Ambassadors, Public Ministers, Consuls
i. Ambassadors—original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
ii. All other ministers—exclusive original jurisdiction of the District Courts, unless it was criminal, then it was original of the Circuit.
i. Original jurisdiction in the district courts in terms and manners that largely survive today.