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The Rise of Judicial Management in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, 1955-2000

The Rise of Judicial Management in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, 1955-2000

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 576
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    The Rise of Judicial Management in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, 1955-2000
    Book Description:

    This is the first book-length study of a federal district court to analyze the revolutionary changes in its mission, structure, policies, and procedures over the past four decades. As Steven Harmon Wilson chronicles the court's attempts to keep pace with an expanding, diversifying caseload, he situates those efforts within the social, cultural, and political expectations that have prompted the increase in judicial seats from four in 1955 to the current nineteen. Federal judges have progressed from being simply referees of legal disputes to managers of expanding courts, dockets, and staffs, says Wilson. The Southern District of Texas offers an especially instructive model by which to study this transformation. Not only does it contain a varied population of Hispanics, African Americans, and whites, but its jurisdiction includes an international border and some of the busiest seaports in the United States. Wilson identifies three areas of judicial management in which the shift has most clearly manifested itself. Through docket and case management judges have attempted to rationalize the flow of work through the litigation process. Lastly, and most controversially, judges have sought to bring "constitutionally flawed" institutions into compliance through "structural reform" rulings in areas such as housing, education, employment, and voting. Wilson draws on sources ranging from judicial biography and oral-history interviews to case files, published opinions, and administrative memoranda. Blending legal history with social science, this important new study ponders the changing meaning of federal judgeship as it shows how judicial management has both helped and hindered the resolution of legal conflicts and the protection of civil rights.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-2728-0
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS embraces more than 44,100 square miles, approximately one-fifth of the real estate in Texas. Its edge is delineated on the southwest by 250 miles of the Rio Grande, the river that marks the border between the United States and Mexico. In its nearly 400-mile sweep to the northeast from the Rio Grande, the district encompasses a ribbon of Texas that ranges in width from 100 to 200 miles. The ranches and farms of the Lower Rio Grande Valley lie within the southern part of this territory. The hill country of central Texas begins on the...

  6. CHAPTER ONE The Varieties of Public School Desegregation
    (pp. 11-49)

    “IN THE LONG RUN,” U.S. District Judge James V. Allred Jr. cautioned the plaintiffs in his Corpus Christi courtroom in 1957, “I don’t know whether you are going to be able to accomplish a great deal by lawsuits or not.”¹ Allred offered this observation during one of the earliest school desegregation suits to be filed in the Southern District of Texas after the U.S. Supreme Court announced the landmark 1954 decision Brown v. Board of Education, usually known as Brown I,² and its 1955 follow-up, Brown II.³ The judge was not seeking to discourage the parents who had sued the...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Legislation, Litigation, and Judicial Economy
    (pp. 50-92)

    AMONG THE METHODS FOR JUDICIAL SELECTION, Benjamin Franklin declared during the Constitutional Convention of 1787, was “the Scottish practice,” under which the “nomination proceeded from the Lawyers, who always selected the ablest of the profession in order to get rid of him, and share his practice among themselves.”¹ The vice president’s motives were distinguishable from the venality that Franklin had suggested 172 years earlier, but Lyndon B. Johnson clearly had taken a personal as well as a professional interest in the choice of U.S. District Judge James Allred’s successor in the Southern District of Texas. Reynaldo G. Garza offered his...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The Rules and Exceptions of Border Justice
    (pp. 93-139)

    WHEN JUDGE REYNALDO GARZA REPLACED the late Judge Allred in the Southern District of Texas, he became one of only four federal district judges responsible for trying federal civil and criminal cases in the six court divisions.¹ Judge Garza principally held court in Brownsville, his hometown on the U.S.-Mexican border, but he periodically trekked north 150 miles, to preside over cases in Corpus Christi. Similarly, Judge Ben Connally shuttled between his home in Houston and the border court at Laredo, with stops at the courthouse in Victoria in between. Judge James Noel tried cases both in Houston and Galveston. The...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Managing “Our Federalism” in the Southern District
    (pp. 140-188)

    DURING THE LATE 1960s minority claimants’ goals expanded, grew diffuse, and became more controversial. Would-be “structural reform” litigants challenged federal district judges to intervene in and to reform the alleged constitutional deprivations in school discipline, criminal prosecutions, and other domains of public governance traditionally considered to be within the sole purview of state officials. Affected federal judges faced hard choices in the 1970s: first, to separate frivolous complaints from legitimate grievances; second, to determine if the latter cases could be remedied by federal judicial intervention; and, third, to decide whether to act on behalf of a meritorious plaintiff or to...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Judicial Management of Triethnic Integration
    (pp. 189-232)

    NEW FEDERAL CIVIL RIGHTS STATUTES of the 1960s authorized federal oversight of state policies on a scale not seen since the Reconstruction era. The U.S. Supreme Court supported these laws in a series of landmark opinions.¹ Advocates of federal judicial protection of minorities feared that President Nixon’s 1969 appointment ofWarren Burger to replace Earl Warren as chief justice heralded the cessation of federal intervention in local affairs. But no “constitutional counter-revolution” followed.² In the field of public school desegregation, the Burger court could surpass the Warren court’s boldness. Under Warren the court waited more than a dozen years to abandon...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Federal Criminal Justice on Trial in the 1970s
    (pp. 233-280)

    ACCORDING TO THE FIRST RULE of civil procedure, the federal judiciary’s primary goal in civil disputes is to facilitate “the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.”¹ Yet the litigants in civil lawsuits in the Southern District of Texas, especially in the border divisions but not only there, often faced substantial delays in getting their cases heard by the judge. This was due to the federal trial judges’ responsibility to clear their criminal dockets first. This order of priority was established by the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which provides that “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Adjuncts and the Oversight of Corporate Misconduct
    (pp. 281-326)

    IN HIS DECEMBER 1978 MEMORANDUM setting out the judicial work assignments for 1979, Chief Judge Reynaldo Garza informed the judges of the Southern District that no new criminal cases were being assigned to Judge John Singleton after 1 January, until further notice. This was at the request of Singleton, who reported that he would soon begin “a long-winded criminal case involving containers.”¹ The criminal trial evolved into a related civil action known generally as In re Corrugated Container Antitrust Litigation, and Singleton continued to preside over the case well after he succeeded Garza as chief judge. Singleton’s tenure as chief...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT Masters, Magistrates, and Managerial Judges
    (pp. 327-354)

    IN THE LATE 1970s federal district judges began to pass on responsibility for monitoring school desegregation plans to task forces, expert panels, and multiethnic citizens’ committees. This occurred in Houston, for example, where the parties agreed within a short time—at least, short relative to the total time consumed by the litigation—to the mediated settlement and dismissal of the three-decades-old HISD desegregation suit.¹ Another example of the structural or institutional reform case emerged just as the school desegregation cases were fading from federal judicial priorities, in the form of prisoners’ civil rights litigation, through which either an incarcerated individual...

  14. Conclusion: Just, Speedy, and Inexpensive Resolutions
    (pp. 355-358)

    IN THEIR 1927 STUDY of the federal judicial system, The Business of the Supreme Court, Felix Frankfurter and James Landis declared that “the business of the courts is determined by the nature and extent of the predominant activities of contemporary life.”¹ In 1983 Professor Owen Fiss attributed “bureaucratization of the judiciary” to the “growing size and complexity of American society.”² Both of these observations are certainly borne out by the history of the Southern District of Texas. The concerns and complexity ofAmerican society, taken together, provide only partial explanation for the changes in the district’s business. The rise of public...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 359-520)
  16. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 521-546)
  17. Index
    (pp. 547-559)