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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)

  • Continued tomorrow.
    1 week 18 hours ago
  • 14/ Senator Thomas J. Walsh of Montana argued for abolition of the Court's appellate jurisdiction in common law cases but believed that the Court should hear appeals in all federal question cases as the final arbiter of federal law.
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  • 13/ Others argued against the bill on the grounds that it would deprive litigants of the opportunity to have errors made by lower federal and state courts corrected. If an area of law was settled, the Supreme Court would not grant certiorari no matter how severe the error below.
    1 week 18 hours ago
  • 12/ In 1924 hearings, Justice Van Devanter claimed that 1/3 of the Court's business "results in no advantage to the litigants or the public," because most cases had already gone through two courts, leaving the Court to review decisions that were "obviously correct."
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  • 11/ The Court's function, said Taft, "is for the purpose of expounding and stabilizing principles of law for the benefit of the people of the country, passing upon constitutional questions and other important questions of law for the public benefit."
    1 week 18 hours ago


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This three-volume series presents historical documents related to significant debates about the federal judiciary.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