With the Court announcing new circuit allotments today, I know what you're thinking - huh, what is the story behind these allotments? Well have I got you covered! Here’s a little judicial administration history thread (with much of the underlying info c/o @FedJudicialHist).⚖️🧵1/
Let's cast our minds back to 1789...remember that the Justices initially had responsibilities on the circuit courts. Specifically, the First Judiciary Act created 3 geographical circuits (Eastern, Middle & Southern) to which the Justices were assigned for circuit riding. 2/
A few years later (in the Act of April 13, 1791) Congress mandated that the Court issue a written order at each session, indicating the circuits to which the Justices would be assigned. Seems totally fine, right? Well... 3/
As I talk about in an article on "Visiting Judges" for @CalifLRev, all was not fine for poor Justice James Iredell, who was assigned to the perilous Southern Circuit. But luckily for Iredell, his brother-in-law was Senator Samuel Johnston of North Carolina...4/
Based in part on Iredell’s pleas, Congress passed the Jud. Act of 1792, which stated that “no judge, unless by his own consent, shall have assigned to him any circuit which he hath already attended, until the same hath been afterwards attended by every other of the said judges.”5
(Very sadly, the strategy of sharing the burden of the Southern Circuit was not enough to save Justice Iredell. As Steven Calabresi writes, Justice Iredell died at the age of 48 "in part because of the rigors of circuit riding in the Southern Circuit.") 6/
Fast forward to the Judiciary Act of 1802, which specified that upon the appointment of each subsequent justice, the justices were to allot themselves to the circuits “as they shall think fit.” But Congress’s hands-off approach didn’t last long…[cue the dramatic music] 7/
As the @FedJudicialHist notes, An act of 1803 reversed the allotments of Justices Bushrod Washington and William Paterson - remember those guys? no, well, back to where we were - sending the former to the 3d Circuit and the latter to the 2d Circuit all to....[cliffhanger] 8/
...relieve Washington, a resident of Virginia, of the burden of riding as far as Vermont. B/c no new justice had been appointed since the Judiciary Act of 1802, the Court had not yet assumed the authority to revise the circuit allotments, making Congressional action necessary. 9/
[Seriously, how much do you love judicial administration history? "So much!" is the only correct answer here.] 10/
Okay, remember how I said that back in 1802, Congress said that the justices could make assignments as they saw fit? One wrinkle was that the president was given authority to allot the justices upon the appointment of a new justice but before the Court made its own allotment. 11/
This gets fascinating - often, presidential allotment orders were issued to enable justices to hold circuit court prior to taking a seat on the Supreme Court...so like Justice William Johnson started hearing circuit cases in May 1804 (and wasn't on SCOTUS until Feb. 1805). 12/
But Congress put the kibosh on this practice with a law enacted on March 2, 1867, in which it eliminated the president's authority to allot justices by providing that allotments were to be made by order of the Court, or of the Chief Justice if made during recess. 13/
Now of course, all of this became less relevant when the Justices were relieved of their circuit-riding duties, care of the Evarts Act of 1891 (though as we know, at least one Justice continued riding circuit until the circuit courts were formally abolished in 1911). 14/
As @FedJudicialHist notes, the Court's authority to allot justices to circuits was included in the Judicial Code of 1911, and the statutory authority that has existed in various forms since then has allowed the Court a great deal of flexibility in making its circuit allotments.15
There have been updates to the statute since 1911, including in 1948, but the bottomline is that the Supreme Court continues to enjoy significant autonomy in making these assignments! #TheMoreYouKnowAboutCourts #JudicialFunFacts #I❤️Courts (Fin)

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More from @marinklevy

31 Oct
In the mood for a distraction? Yearning to learn more about en banc courts? Do I have the mini judicial administration thread for you…⚖️🧵🎃 (1 / 11-ish)
First, a word about terminology (c/o the incomparable Judge Jon O. Newman) – “en banc” can be traced back to the Latin “in banco” – the ablative of “bancus” or “bench.” JON notes that a well-regarded etymologist indefnties a use of in banco in English writing in 1645, and...(2)
...a first use of the Anglicized “in bank” in 1768 in Blackstone’s Commentaries. “In banc” apparently came into fashion in England in the 1800s. But, being the Francophile that I am, I prefer “en banc.” (3/11ish)
Read 14 tweets
15 Oct
I appreciate that the Republicans are now trying to emphasize that filling vacancies does not equal "court packing" - but they were not always so careful with words. Back in 2013, this is precisely what some accused President Obama of doing when he filled 3 DC Circuit vacancies.
159 CONG. REC. 16,594 (2013) (statement of @JohnCornyn) (“I think the evidence is overwhelming that what the President is trying to do by nominating these unneeded judges to [the D.C. Circuit], the second most powerful court in the Nation, is he is trying to pack the court...").
@LindseyGrahamSC also referred to filling the D.C. Circuit seats as "court packing," later saying that he told Harry Reid and President Obama that "the consequence of changing the rules in the Senate to pack the court will come back to haunt them.” perma.cc/6REN-PYQL%5D
Read 5 tweets
13 Oct
Do you remember when Juliet asks aloud, "What's in a name?" Clearly she was talking about the DC Circuit's many stylings over the years... (mini ⚖️🧵, 1/x)
In 1801 we see the creation of the Circuit Court for the District of Columbia, thanks to the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801. (Since we are talking about names, I have to confess that I love the name of that Act.) (2/x)
Now quick frolic – (I promise it will be fun) – the first three judges appointed to that court were Thomas Johnson (who refused to serve – the nerve!), James Marshall (brother of everyone’s favorite Chief Justice) and William Cranch (Supreme Court Reporter extraordinaire)! (3/x)
Read 8 tweets

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