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U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, 1929-1982

Originally U.S. Court of Customs Appeals, 1909-1929

The Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act (36 Stat. 11, 105) of 1909 provided for a U.S. Court of Customs Appeals to hear all appeals from the Board of General Appraisers (later known as the U.S. Customs Court). Appeals from the Board had created a burden for the circuit courts and the circuit courts of appeals, particularly those of the Second Circuit, which had jurisdiction over the busy port of New York. Despite considerable opposition to the creation of a specialized appeals court, Congress approved the measure that called for a five-judge court to convene in Washington, D.C. The judges were appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate, but the act made no mention of their tenure or the means of removal. The president commissioned the first five judges of the court on March 30, 1910, and the judges formally organized the new court on April 22, 1910.

In 1929, a congressional act (45 Stat. 1475) renamed the court the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals and expanded its jurisdiction to include appeals from the Patent Office in patent and trademark cases. Such cases previously had been the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Within a month of passage of the act of 1929, the Supreme Court, in response to a challenge brought against a ruling of the original customs appeals court, decided that the court was established under Article I of the Constitution as part of Congress's authority to lay and collect duties on imports. The decision cast doubt on whether the judges of the successor court had life tenure with good behavior and the privilege to resign with salary, but in practice the judges continued to serve during good behavior. As part of a statute to provide for the temporary reassignment of judges on the appellate and district courts, Congress in 1958 (72 Stat. 848) declared that the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals was created under Article III. In 1961, a congressional statute designated the chief judge of the court as a member of the Judicial Conference of the United States.

The U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals was abolished in 1982 when its judges and its jurisdiction were transferred to the new U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.