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Debate on the Federal Judiciary: A Documentary History (Volume 1)

Debate on the Federal Judiciary: A Documentary History (Volume 1) published on

Authored by Federal Judicial History Office

This volume presents historical documents related to significant debates about the organization and jurisdiction of the federal judiciary in the years between the Federal Convention of 1787 and the Jurisdiction and Removal Act of 1875. The documents and accompanying annotation trace the long process of defining the judiciary within the relatively brief outline provided by Article III of the Constitution and by the appointment provisions of Article II. The delegates to the Federal Convention ensured that federal judges would have a degree of independence from political influence and popular pressure, but the delegates also granted the Congress and the president substantial authority over the structure, responsibilities, and officials of the federal courts. Although federal judges would enjoy unprecedented protections of tenure and salary, the constitutional provisions for nomination and confirmation further determined that the courts would be subject to the political process.

The Constitution ensured that the Congress would be the principal forum for debates on the institutional structure of the federal judiciary and on the jurisdictional authorities of the courts. In addition to its selection of documents from the debates on the constitutional provisions for the judiciary, this volume is organized primarily around proposals for judiciary-related legislation. Legislative proposals regarding the federal judiciary emerged from every branch of the federal and state governments, from the bar, from legal commentators, from popular political organizations, and occasionally from federal judges. A succession of debates on these proposals raised fundamental questions about the constitutional role of the judiciary and its relationship to the elected branches of the government.

The Constitution left for the elected branches of the government to define essential characteristics of the judiciary, including the establishment of federal courts other than the Supreme Court, the authorization of the range of jurisdiction permitted under the Constitution, and the division of jurisdiction between federal and state courts. As the debates over ratification demonstrated, the decisions about those aspects of the judiciary would be highly contested by opposing political factions, and expectations for the federal judiciary would often reflect fundamentally divergent views of republican government and constitutional order. The emergence of political parties in the 1790s heightened the disputes over the judiciary, and the branch of government that received the least attention during the constitutional convention became a central subject of partisan debate.

Publication Date:
Sep 27 2014
1502518937 / 9781502518934
Page Count:
Binding Type:
US Trade Paper
Trim Size:
6″ x 9″
Black and White
Related Categories:
History / United States / General


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