Judiciary Act of 1925 43 Stat. 936 (1925)

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JUDICIARY ACT OF 1925 43 Stat. 936 (1925)

The Supreme Court's desire to reduce the burden of post-war litigation reaching its docket, combined with Chief Justice william howard taft's aggressive program of reform, resulted in the Judiciary Act of 1925. As litigation increased, efforts to expand the Court's discretionary control over its jurisdiction—begun in the circuit courts of appeals act of 1891—gained favor. Taft took the administrative functions of the Chief Justiceship seriously and sponsored a three-man committee of justices charged with formulating a detailed plan to regulate the Court's workload. The eventual proposal, framed mainly by Justice willis van devanter, entailed what Professor felix frank-furter would later describe as a "drastic transfer of existing Supreme Court business to the circuit courts of appeal." This draft bill was submitted to Congress in 1922. The patchwork appearance of existing national legislation regulating the federal judiciary had prompted confusion and delay, and Taft, testifying in favor of the bill, applauded its "revision and restatement—a bringing together in a harmonious whole" of the earlier "wilderness of statutes." After three years of inaction, Congress finally passed the "Judges' Bill" in early 1925.

The new act reorganized the Court's appellate jurisdiction, allowing it to center its energies on constitutionally or nationally significant issues. Henceforth, cases would reach the Court from three avenues. Some district court decisions would go directly to the Supreme Court, but most would be shunted to the circuit courts of appeals. Among those exceptional cases that could be directly appealed because of their national importance were those arising under interstate commerce or antitrust statutes, suits to enjoin enforcement of either ICC orders or state laws, and appeals by the federal government in criminal cases. Review of circuit courts of appeals' decisions was made largely discretionary; unless the Court chose to examine such a case by means of a writ of certiorari, most circuit decisions would be final. This provision thus superseded some of the reforms enacted in the 1891 legislation. Only two kinds of cases might be appealed directly from state courts: where a state law had been sustained against federal constitutional attack or where the state court had voided a federal law or treaty. Although the act left some problems unsolved, it successfully abated the flood of cases inundating the Court.

David Gordon


Frankfurter, Felix and Landis, James M. 1927 The Business of the Supreme Court. New York: Macmillan.

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Judiciary Act of 1925 43 Stat. 936 (1925)

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