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Federal Courts
West Virginia University School of Law
Ashdown, Gerald G.

Federal Courts Outline
Updated Spring 2006

I. Issues in Judicial Review
A. Marbury v. Madison
1. Landmark case establishing judicial review.
2. Judicial review provides a check on the legislative and executive functions of government.
3. It essentially provides a check on the democratic process, although by definition it is countermajoritarian since federal judges are not elected and they serve for life.
4. However, judicial review is shielded from the political process.
5. This is an ongoing issue throughout the course.
B. Article III is the big constitutional section in this course.

II. Congressional Power to Control Federal Jurisdiction
A. Congressional Power to Regulate Lower Federal Court Jurisdiction
1. Art. III states “the judicial Power of the U.S., shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”
a. This “shall” language might suggest that if Congress creates inferior courts, it has to extend the full jurisdictional power to them.
b. However, case law suggests otherwise.
2. Sheldon v. Sill
a. Facts: Appellee/pl. below filed suit in the U.S. Circuit Court for Michigan against appellant/def. below seeking to assert a bond and mortgage, which was assigned to him from a bank. Appellee was a citizen of NY, while the appellants were citizens of Michigan. In his Answer, the appellant asserted, among other things, that the court lacked jurisdiction due to the 11th Section of the Judiciary Act, which prohibited circuit court jurisdiction over any suit about a promissory note, etc. The appellee claimed that the Act was in conflict with Art. III of the Constitution because it was possibly a diversity case.
b. Holding: If the Constitution had ordained and established the inferior courts, then the 11th section of the Judiciary Act would be void. However, since the Const. gives Congress the express power to establish the inferior courts, it may define their jurisdiction.
c. “Courts created by statute can have no jurisdiction but such as the statute confers.” Thus, Congress may limit federal court jurisdiction.
d. This is the widely accepted view today.
e. In dicta, the Court said that the only way that the statute could be in conflict with the Const. is if it confers powers not enumerated therein.
f. This case interprets the Article III language desc

nd the federal courts, but since this was exclusively a federal issue, Congress has the power to do this.
4. Yakus v. U.S.
a. Facts: Another case involving the Emergency Price Control Act, except this time the Petitioners were actually convicted for violation of it. They did not afford themselves the opportunity to challenge the price fixing under the means set up by the statute (the emergency court, etc.). At trial, the District Court refused to hear evidence about whether the price fixing was fair or not. Petitioners stated that this denied them D/P.
The Court concluded that since the petitioners did not avail themselves of the opportunity to make their case under the procedures of the statute, the Court could not yet determine whether the procedures violated D/P since the statute was not void on its face. Thus, the petitioners were not deprived of a D/P right since they had an opportunity to go to the Emergency Court and they did not take it.