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Federal Judicial History

The Center conducts research and produces resources on the history of the judicial branch of the federal government.  These resources include compilations of historical data on the courts, information about judges and judicial administration, as well as publications on federal judicial history. The Center also maintains a biographical directory of Article III judges from 1789 to the present, engages in outreach and education on federal judicial history, and works to promote the preservation of the history of the judicial branch.

Twitter Feed (@FedJudicialHist)

  • 24/ Schenck v. U.S. and other notable cases are included in the FJC's new Notable Federal Trials exhibit https://t.co/q8mFitQE0l /end
    3 weeks 5 hours ago
  • 23/ The "clear and present danger" test was replaced in Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969). There, the Court held that advocacy could not be criminal unless it was "directed to incitement or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action."
    3 weeks 5 hours ago
  • 22/ Holmes concluded that the leaflets in Abrams did not meet the "clear and present danger" test. He warned against stifling unpopular opinions, asserting that truth was best tested in the "competition of the market" (what came to be called the "marketplace of ideas" theory).
    3 weeks 5 hours ago
  • 21/ Later in 1919, Holmes dissented in Abrams v. U.S., where the Court voted 7-2 to sustain convictions under the Espionage Act. Although he proclaimed Schenck rightly decided, the dissent was viewed by many as a stunning and abrupt shift in Holmes' views.
    3 weeks 5 hours ago
  • 20/ Many viewed the "clear and present danger" test to be insufficiently protective of free speech. The Court's opinion was criticized as reducing free speech protections during wartime. Some also critiqued Holmes' "fire" example as a poor analogy.
    3 weeks 5 hours ago

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Debates on the Federal Judiciary: A Documentary History

This three-volume series presents historical documents related to significant debates about the federal judiciary.

Volume I: 1787-1875
The first volume traces the long process of defining the judiciary within the relatively brief outline provided by the Constitution.

Volume II: 1875-1939
Volume II introduces readers to public debates on proposals to alter the organization, jurisdiction, and administration of the federal courts, as well as the tenure and authority of federal judges, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 

Volume III: 1939-2005
The concluding volume of the series covers debates concerning structural changes to the federal courts, criminal justice reform, proposed civil justice initiatives, and the discipline of federal judges.

Approaches to Federal Judicial History

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This volume presents a range of scholarly approaches to the field of federal judicial history. Essays by scholars and public historians evaluate the current state of the field and offer insights into new potential areas of study.

To submit questions about federal judicial history, email us at history@fjc.gov.