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Courts of Appeals in the Federal Judicial System

Courts of Appeals in the Federal Judicial System: A Study of the Second, Fifth, and District of Columbia Circuits

J. Woodford Howard
Copyright Date: 1981
Pages: 444
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  • Book Info
    Courts of Appeals in the Federal Judicial System
    Book Description:

    Courts of Appeals were designed to be a unifying force in American law and politics, but they also contribute to decentralization and regionalization of federal law. Woodford Howard studies three aspects of this problem: first, what binds the highly decentralized federal courts into a judicial system; second, what controls the discretion of judges in making law and policy; and third, how can quality judicial decisions be maintained under heavy-volume pressure.

    Originally published in 1981.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5545-2
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Appendixes
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. List of Figures
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Preface
    (pp. xvii-xxviii)
  7. Part I The Flow of Federal Litigation

    • One Courts of Appeals in the Governing Process
      (pp. 3-22)

      United States Courts of Appeals were created in the 1890s to help the Supreme Court enforce the supremacy and uniformity of federal law. From the start they have been enmeshed in a paradox between the missions and organization of federal courts. On the one hand, the basic object of the national judiciary is to uphold federally created rights as the supreme law of the land. On the other hand, that centralizing task has been dispersed among the most decentralized institutions of the government. In theory, of course, federal judges form a pyramid that supports the will of the Justices. In...

    • Two The Flow of Litigation in Three Courts of Appeals
      (pp. 23-56)

      “Inflexible execution of the national laws,” in Alexander Hamilton’s phrase, is a primary object of federal courts.¹ Unity of legal doctrine is difficult to achieve in any case-law system, but the task is the more formidable when the organs of judicial power are decentralized across a “teeming continent.”² It is a common error to assume that all federal courts are alike.³ Notwithstanding strong forces of cohesion in the federal judiciary, substantial discretion and diversity flourish among the very tribunals Congress created to harmonize national law. Just as the doctrine of stare decisis gives federal judges leeway to reconcile the values...

    • Three The Flow of Litigation in the Supreme Court
      (pp. 57-84)

      To casual observers federal courts look alike. They form a unitary, centrally controlled pyramid held together by Supreme Court review and adherence to precedent. In reality, the national judiciary, as Graham Allison describes all governments, “consists of a conglomerate of semi-feudal, loosely allied organizations, each with a substantial life of its own.”¹ That is true of Courts of Appeals both horizontally and vertically.

      The pluralism of their functions and relations becomes pointed when we assess the finality of circuit decisions and compare their work with the Supreme Court’s in the same cases, using the methods of Chapter Two. In spite...

  8. Part II The Roles of Circuit Judges

    • Four The Making of Circuit Judges
      (pp. 87-124)

      In the world of legal realists judicial decisions are determined less by formal logic or precedent than by individual discretion in settling disputes. A less-noted corollary is that legal systems persist because the chaos of choice is contained within a community of judicial values in a common political and legal culture.¹ To comprehend why courts cohere, therefore, is to plumb informal processes that make judges and their decisions more alike than different.

      Little empirical proof has established the links between cultural values and judicial consensus, but it is logical that the weaker the external controls on judges’ decisions the more...

    • Five The Purposes of Courts of Appeals
      (pp. 125-158)

      “In this quarter century how much the character of the job has changed! And how much what is thought to be the proper function of the judge!”¹ So Judge Learned Hand, apostle of judicial selfrestraint, greeted new judicial activism in 1946. Imagination soars as to how the salty Hand might have viewed changing conceptions of judicial duty since. Although the federal judiciary’s basic mission of enforcing the supremacy and uniformity of national law remains unchanged, rising litigiousness, as we saw in Chapter One, is revolutionizing traditional ideas about the roles of law and courts in American society.² The expanding scope...

    • Six Judicial Values and Judicial Votes
      (pp. 159-188)

      The sharpest conflicts among members of the three tribunals concerned judicial lawmaking. Time and again they raised this classic problem of appellate jurisprudence, and their answers to specific questions demonstrated that the controversy over judicial activism in the modern Supreme Court has enveloped Courts of Appeals. The appropriate limits on judicial creativity—to one judge “the stinking question”—was a major point of contention in their decisionmaking roles.

      It is easy to understand why. Judicial legislation, however responsive to sluggish political institutions, collides with two leading principles of American government: separation of powers and popular representation in lawmaking. Innovation in...

    • Seven Consensus and Conflict in Circuit Courts, an Informal View
      (pp. 189-221)

      Problems of achieving unity amid diversity prevail within as well as among circuit courts. By law a Court of Appeals is a panel of three judges. The organizational principles of collegiality and random rotation, in environments of administrative independence and escalating caseloads, profoundly shape decision making in intermediate federal courts. No circuit judge, however motivated, is entirely a free agent. Judging is a collective enterprise governed by established rules and routines to which any individual member is expected to conform.

      Group decision making thus ranks with Supreme Court review and professional discipline as a major potential limit on the personal...

    • Eight Leadership in the Allocation of Work
      (pp. 222-258)

      It is a truism that loosely knit work groups require leaders to unite members in the performance of common tasks. Students of formal organizations often suggest an inverse relationship between leadership and conflict.¹ In Congress, for instance, representatives tend to take their cues in routine decisions from trusted colleagues who, by virtue of character and expertise, successfully mediate between the personal predispositions of members and party positions.² Even in voluntary organizations like political parties, whose workers may be torn between pragmatic and institutional loyalties, leaders, by whatever chemistry, manage to lower the intensity of disagreement and to mobilize individuals behind...

  9. Part III Perspectives on Reform

    • Nine Strategies of Reform
      (pp. 261-296)

      The idea of a legal system, as Julius Stone observed, conveys an “overall vision of unity, despite the unending changefulness and conflict in what goes on beneath.”¹ The concept also implies a dialectic between formal rules of decision and informal operations in the conduct of courts. It would be foolhardy to underestimate the force of formal rules and relations—such things as common jurisdiction, legal standards, and external review—as bonding agents among national courts. Yet, there is a growing awareness that the formalities of the judicial process breed a propensity “to see things whole and harmonious, when in fact...

  10. Appendixes
    (pp. 297-344)
  11. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 345-346)
  12. Bibliographic Notes
    (pp. 347-398)
  13. Index
    (pp. 399-415)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 416-416)