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U.S. Court of International Trade, 1980-present

In 1980, Congress reorganized the U.S. Customs Court as the U.S. Court of International Trade (94 Stat. 1727). The nine judges of the Customs Court were transferred to service on the new court, the name of which signified its judicial functions and its expanded jurisdiction over cases related to trade. The act of 1980 declared that the court was established under Article III of the Constitution, thereby reaffirming the judges' life tenure during good behavior and protection against diminution of salary. The act authorized nine judges for the court and required that no more than five of them be of the same political party affiliation.

The U.S. Customs Court and its predecessor, the Board of General Appraisers, were established in an era when almost all trade litigation related to tariffs, and the panels served primarily to rule on the validity of decisions by administrative agencies. Although Congress expanded the judicial functions of the U.S. Customs Court, the sporadic legislation created confusion concerning the respective jurisdiction of that court and the U.S. district courts. Many litigants chose to file suits related to international trade in the district courts, and increasing numbers were dismissed. The imprecise division of jurisdiction also contributed to inconsistent rulings on trade matters.

With the establishment of the new court in 1980, Congress signaled its intention to use the expertise of the Court of International Trade and the Court of Customs and Patents Appeals to handle the federal judiciary's trade litigation, which was much more likely to concern enforcement of trade agreements than disputes about tariffs. The U.S. Court of International Trade was granted the same judicial powers in law and equity that were exercised by U.S. district courts and was authorized to issue money judgments, writs of mandamus, and injunctions. The act gave the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals exclusive jurisdiction over appeals from the Court of International Trade. Congress also provided for the chief judge of the court to serve on the Judicial Conference of the United States.

In 1982, Congress established the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which assumed most of the jurisdiction of the U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals, including appeals from the U.S. Court of International Trade.