Judicial Branch

The Supreme Court of the United States

United States Supreme Court Building, 1 First Street, NE.
EXecutive 1640
Chief Justice Harlan F. Stone
Associate Justices:  
   Owen J. Roberts    William O. Douglas
   Hugo L. Black    Frank Murphy
   Stanley Reed    Robert H. Jackson
   Felix Frankfurter    Wiley Rutledge
Clerk Charles Elmore Cropley
Deputy Clerks Reginald C. Dilli
Hugh W. Barr
Harold B. Willey
Marshal Thomas E. Waggaman
Reporter Ernest Knaebel
Librarian Oscar D. Clarke

Creation and Authority.--Article III, section 1, of the Constitution of the United States provides that "the judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish." The Supreme Court of the United States was created in accordance with this provision and by authority of the Judiciary Act of September 24, 1789 (1 Stat. 73; 28 U.S.C. ch. 9). It was organized on February 2, 1790.

Organization--The Supreme Court comprises a Chief Justice and such number of Associate Justices as may be fixed by Congress. Under that authority, and by virtue of the act of April 10, 1869 (16 Stat. 44; 28 U.S.C. 321), the number of Associate Justices is now eight. Power to nominate the Justices is vested in the President of the United States, and appointments are made by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. Article III, section 1, of the Constitution further provides that "the Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for the Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office." A Justice may, if he so desires, retire at the age of 70, after serving for 10 years as a Federal judge.

The officers of the Supreme Court are the clerk, three deputy clerks, the reporter, the marshal, and the librarian, who are appointed by the Court to assist in the performance of its functions. The library is open to members of the bar of the Court, attorneys for the various Federal departments and agencies, and Members of Congress


The Term of the Court begins, by law, the first Monday in October of each year and continues s long as the business before the Court requires, usually until about the first of June. Six members constitute a quorum. Approximately 1,000 cases are passed upon in the course of a term.

Jurisdiction.--According to the Constitution (art. III, sec. 2), "the judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;--to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;--to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;--to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;--to Controversies between two or more States;--between a State and Citizens of another State;--between Citizens of different States;--between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

"In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make."

Appellate jurisdiction has been conferred upon the Supreme Court by various statutes, under the authority given Congress by the Constitution. The statutes effective at this time in conferring and controlling jurisdiction of the Supreme Court may be found in most convenient form in title 28, chapter 9, of the United States Code. Congress has no authority to change the original jurisdiction of the Court.

Rule-Making Power.--Congress has from time to time conferred upon the Supreme Court power to prescribe rules of procedure to be followed by the lower courts of the United States. Pursuant to these statutes there are now in force rules promulgated by the Court to govern civil cases in the district courts, bankruptcy proceedings, admiralty cases, copyright cases, appellate proceedings in criminal cases, and criminal proceedings before commissioners on Federal reservations.

In the preparation of the Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court had the assistance of an Advisory Committee on Rules of Civil Procedure which, by an order of the Court, dated January 5, 1942, was designated as a continuing committee to advise the Court with respect to amendments or additions to the Rules of Civil Procedure. The chairman of this committee is William D. Mitchell of New York City; the reporter, Charles E. Clark of New Haven, Conn.; and the secretary, Edgar B. Tolman of Chicago, Ill.

By act of Congress of June 29, 1490 (54 Stat. 670-71; 18 U.S.C. 99-13), the Court was empowered to prescribe rules of procedure fo the trial of criminal cases in all the district courts of the United States. Pursuant to this authority the Court has appointed an Advisory Committee on Rules of Criminal Procedure to prepare for the consideration of the Court a draft of rules, and the Congress has appropriated funds to finance this work, which is now in progress. The chairman of the Committee is Arthur T. Vanderbilt; the reporter,


James J. Robinson; and the secretary, Alexander Holtzoff. The offices of the Committee are in the Supreme Court Building.

Lower Constitutional Courts

Circuit Courts of Appeals of the United States.--The circuit courts of appeals were created by act of March 3, 1891 (26 Stat. 826; 28 U.S.C. 212). Their function is to relieve the Supreme Court of much of the appellate work by making their decrees final in many matters. They have no original jurisdiction; that is, they hear no case in the first instance.

Since 1929 the United States has been divided into 10 judicial circuits and the District of Columbia, each having a circuit court of appeals; prior to that time there were 9 judicial circuits and the District of Columbia. Two of the Supreme Court Justices are assigned to 2 judicial circuits; the others to 1 each. A circuit court of appeals must have at least 3 judges, 2 of whom constitute a quorum. Each year in September, or at such other time as the Chief Justice of the United States may designate, the senior circuit judges of the 10 circuits and the Chief Justice of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia are required by law to meet with the Chief Justice of the United States to discuss conditions in their respective circuits and to suggest means for their improvement. A clerk is connected with each of the circuit courts of appeals.

The judicial circuits appear on pages 48-49.

District Courts of the United States.--The Judiciary Act of September 24, 1789 (1 Stat. 76; 28 U.S.C. ch. 1), authorized the creation of the United States district courts as well as provided for the organization of the Supreme Court of the United States. The district courts are the principal Federal trial courts of first instance, i.e., of original jurisdiction. These courts hear most of the cases within Federal jurisdiction and make final disposition of the majority of them.

More than 90 districts, including the District of Columbia, are in existence at the present time, each having at least 1 district judge. In addition to 1 or more judges, every district also has a United States attorney, an United States marshal, and a United States commissioner (who conducts the preliminary hearing in criminal cases and decides whether an accused shall be held for grand jury). Offices are those of clerk, deputy clerks, assistant United States attorneys, office deputies, referees in bankruptcy, and probation and parole officers.

Legislative Courts

Before attempting to name these courts, and to describe briefly the purpose and function of some of them, the distinction between such bodies and constitutional courts should be pointed out. In the case of Ex parte Bakelite Corporation, 279 U.S. 438, the Supreme Court had occasion to pass upon this question and the following quotation is from the opinion delivered at that time:

"While Article III of the Constitution declares, in section 1, that the judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in 'such inferior Courts as the Congress may from


Judicial Circuits--Circuit Courts of Appeals of the United States

Judicial Circuit Circuit Justice Circuit Judges Location
District of Columbia; District of Columbia. (Clerk: Joseph W. Stewart, Washington, D.C.) The Chief Justice D. Lawrence Groner
Harold M. Stephens
Justin Miller
Henry W. Edgerton
Thurman W. Arnold
Washington, D.C.
First: Districts of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico. (Clerk: Arthur I. Charron, Boston, Mass.) Mr. Justice Frankfurter Calvert Magruder
John C. Mahoney
Peter Woodbury
Boston, Mass.
Providence, R.I.
Concord, N.H.
Second: Districts of Vermont, Connecticut, northern New York, southern New York, eastern New York, and western New York. (Clerk: Alexander M. Bell, New York, 7, N.Y.) Mr. Justice Jackson Learned Hand
Thomas W. Swan
Augustus N. Hand
Harrie Brigham Chase
CHarles E. Clark
Jerome N. Frank
New York, N.Y.
New Haven, Conn.
New York, N.Y.
Brattleboro, Vt.
New Haven, Conn.
New York, N.Y.
Third: Districts of New Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania, middle Pennsylvania, western Pennsylvania, Delaware, and the Virgin Islands. (Clerk: William P. Rowland, Philadelphia, Pa.) Mr. Justice Roberts John BIggs, Jr.
Albert Branson Maris
Charles A. Jones
Herbert F. Goodrich
Gerald McLaughlin
Wilmington, Del.
Philadelphia, Pa.
Pittsburgh, Pa.
Philadelphia, Pa.
Newark, N.J.
Fourth: Districts of Maryland, northern West Virginia, southern West Virginia, eastern Virginia, western Virginia, eastern North Carolina, western North Carolina, and eastern and western South Carolina. (Clerk: Claude M. Dean, Richmond, Va.) The Chief Justice John J. Parker
Morris A. Soper
Armistead M. Dobie
Charlotte, N.C.
Baltimore, Md.
Charlottesville, Va.
Fifth: Districts of northern Georgia, southern Georgia, middle Georgia, northern Florida, southern Florida, northern Alabama, middle Alabama, southern Alabama, northern Mississippi, southern Mississippi, eastern Louisiana, western Louisiana, northern Texas, southern Texas, eastern Texas, western Texas, and Canal Zone. (Clerk: Oakley F. Dodd, New Orleans, La.) Mr. Justice Black Samuel H. Sibley
Joseph C. Hutcheson, Jr.
Edwin R. Holmes
Leon McCord
Cutis L. Waller
Elmo Pearce Lee
Atlanta, Ga.
Houston Tex.
New Orleans, La.,
Yazoo City, Miss.
Montgomery, Ala.
Tallahassee, Fla.
Shreveport, La.


Judicial Circuit Circuit Justice Circuit Judges Location
Sixth: Districts of northern Ohio, southern Ohio, eastern Michigan, western Michigan, eastern Kentucky, western Kentucky, eastern Tennessee, middle Tennessee, and western Tennessee. (Clerk: John W. Menzies, Cincinnati, Ohio.) Mr. Justice Reed Xenophon Hicks
Charles C. Simons
Florence E. Allen
Elwood Hamilton
John D. Martin, Sr.
Thomas F. McAllister
Knoxville, Tenn.
Detroit, Mich.
Cleveland, ohio
Louisville, Ky.
Memphis, Tenn.
Grand Rapids,Mich.
Seventh: Districts of Indiana, northern Illinois, eastern Illinois, southern Illinois, Eastern Wisconsin, and western Wisconsin. (Clerk: Kenneth J. Carrick, Chicago, Ill.) Mr. Justice Murphy Evan A. Evans
William M. Sparks
J. Earl Major
Otto Kerner
Sherman Minton
Madison, Wis.
Indianapolis, Ind.
Springfield, Ill.
Chicago, Ill.
New Albany, Ind.
Eighth: Districts of Minnesota, northern Iowa, southern Iowa, eastern Missouri, western Missouri, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota. (Clerk: E.E. Koch, St. Louis, Mo.) Mr. Justice Rutledge Kimbrough Stone
Archibald K. Gardner
John B. Sanborn
Joseph W. Woodrough
Seth Thomas
Harvey M. Johnsen
Walter G. Riddick
Kansas City, Mo.
Aberdeen, S. Dak.
St. Paul, Minn.
Omaha, Nebr.
Fort Dodge, Iowa
Omaha, Nebr.
Little Rock, Ark.
Ninth: Districts of northern California, southern California, Oregon, Nevada, Montana, eastern Washington, western Washington, Idaho, Arizona, Territories of Alaska and Hawaii. (Clerk: Paul P. O'Brien, San Francisco, Calif.) Mr. Justice Douglas Curtis D. Wilbur
Francis A. Garrecht
William Denman
Clifton Mathews
Albert Lee Stephens
William Healy
Homer T. Bone
San Francisco, Cal.
Spokane, Wash.
San Francisco, Cal.
San Francisco, Cal.
Los Angeles, Cal.
Boise, Idaho
Tacoma, Wash.
Tenth: Districts of Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Kansas, eastern Oklahoma, western Oklahoma, northern Oklahoma, and New Mexico. (Clerk: Robert B. Cartwright, Denver, Colo.) Mr. Justice Rutledge Orie L. Phillips
Sam. G. Bratton
Walter A. Huxman
Alfred P. Murrah
Denver, Colo.
Albuquerque, N.M.
Topeka, Kans.
Oklahoma City, Ok.


time to time ordain and establish,' and prescribes, in section 2, that this power shall extend to cases and controversies of certain enumerated classes, it long has been settled that Article III dos not express the full authority of Congress to create courts, and that other Articles invest Congress with powers in the exertion of which it may create of Article III are called constitutional courts. They share in the exercise of the judicial power defined in that section, can be invested with no other jurisdiction, and have judges who hold office during good behavior, with no power in Congress to provide otherwise. On the other hand, those created by Congress in the exertion of other powers are called legislative courts. Their functions always are directed ot the execution of one or more such powers and are prescribed by Congress independently of section 2 of Article III; and their judges hold for such term as Congress prescribes, whether it be a fixed period of years or during good behavior."

Pursuant to the authority so conferred upon Congress, the following courts have been created:

United States Court of Claims.--The United States Court of Claims was established on February 24, 1955 (10 Stat. 612; 28 U.S.C. 241). It was created to provide an effective means by which persons having claims against the United States Government could obtain satisfaction. Formerly this could be done only through appeal to Congress. (For the jurisdiction of this court, see the act of Feb. 24, 1855, 10 Stat. 612; 28 U.S.C. 250-51.)

The officers of the court are a chief justice, four associate judges, six commissioners, a chief clerk, and assistant clerk, a bailiff, a secretary to the court, an auditor, and a reports (Clerk: Walter Hall Moling, Acting, Washington, D.C.)

United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals.--The United States Court of Customs Appeals was established in 1910 (36 Stat. 91; 28 U.S.C. 301) pursuant to the passage of the Payne-Aldrich tariff Act of 1909, which included provision for its creation. In 1929, cases of appeals from decisions of the Patent Office on patents and trade marks were added by Congress to the jurisdiction of the Court. The United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals i a specialized appellate court designed to facilitate the settlement of disputes in customs and in patent matters.

Officers of the court are five judges, including one presiding judge, a marshal, a clerk, an assistant clerk, and a reporter. (Clerk: Arthur B. Shelton, Washington, D.C.)

United States Customs Court.--By act of Congress, June 10, 1890 (26 Stat. 1356; 198 U.S.C., ch. 4), a tribunal called the Board of United States General Appraisers was created and functioned as a court o the United States with limited and special jurisdiction. By act of May 28, 1926 (44 Stat. 669; 19 U.S.C. 405a), the name was changed to United States Customs Court. The court has sole jurisdiction over actions arising under the tariff laws as to the construction of the law


and the facts respecting the classification of merchandise and the rate of duty imposed thereon under such classification, and the fees and charges connected therewith, together with the determination of the dutiable value of imported merchandise. It also has sole jurisdiction in proceedings for relief from increased duties occasioned by the action of appraisers in advancing values. The court holds it sessions in New York City.

The court is composed of a presiding judge, eight judges, a clerk, a marshal and deputy clerk, a deputy marshal, and five reporters. (Clerk: William F.X. Band, New York, N.Y.).

Territorial Courts.--The Territorial courts are legislative courts created by virtue of the expressed authority conferred upon Congress by Article IV, section 3, clause 2, of the Constitution, to make all needful rules and regulations respecting the Territories belonging to the United States. The more important of these courts are those for Puerto Rico, Alaska, Hawaii, the Canal Zone, and the Virgin Islands. Some of the courts are vested with the same jurisdiction as United States district courts and, in addition, exercise authority as Territorial courts in purely local matters and controversies. Congress may define their jurisdiction directly or delegate such authority to the Territorial governments.

Courts of the District of Columbia.--The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the District Court of the United States for the District of Columbia, in addition to being constitutional courts, are legislative courts in that by virtue of the sovereign authority of the United States over the District of Columbia additional jurisdiction has been conferred upon these courts. The District Court of the United States for the District of Columbia has all the jurisdiction of a State court, including probate matters, and all the Federal jurisdictions which in a State would be exercised by the United States district courts.

Administrative Office of the United States Courts

United States Supreme Court Building, 1 First Street NE.
EXecutive 1640

Director Henry P. Chandler
Assistant Director Elmore Whithurst

The Administrative Office of the United States Courts was created by act of Congress approved August 7, 1939 (53 Stat. 1223-25; 28 U.S.C. 444-50). The Office was established November 6, 1939. The Director and the Assistant Director are appointed by the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Director is the administrative officer of the United States courts (except the Supreme Court), and has charge, under the supervision and direction of the conference of senior circuit judges, of--


"(1) All administrative matters relating to the offices of the clerks and other clerical and administrative personnel of the courts, but nothing contained in this chapter shall be construed as affecting the authority of the courts to appoint their administrative or clerical personnel, or the authority fo the Attorney General respecting United States marshals and their deputies, United States attorneys and their assistants;

"(2) Examining the state of the dockets of the various courts and securing information as to their needs for assistance, if any, and the preparation of statistical data and reports of the business transacted by the courts, and promptly transmitting the information so obtained quarterly to the senior circuit judges of the respective circuits, to the end that proper action may be taken with respect thereto, but inspections of the dockets of the courts outside the continental United States shall be made through officials of the United States Government residing within the jurisdiction, respectively of the said courts;

"(3) The disbursement, directly and through the several United States marshals as now provided by law, of the moneys appropriated for the maintenance, support, and operation of the courts;

"(4) The purchase, exchange, transfer, and distribution of equipment and supplies;

"(5) The examination and audit of vouchers and accounts of the officials and employees covered by this chapter;

"(6) The providing of accommodations for the use of the courts and the various officials and employees covered by this chapter; and

"(7) Such other matters as may be assigned to him by the Supreme Court and the conference of the senior circuit judges. . . ."

The Director is also responsible for the preparation and submission of the budget of the courts, except the budget of the Supreme Court.

The Administrative Office exercises general supervision of the accounts and practices of the Federal probation officers, subject to the primary control by the respective district courts which they serve. The Office published quarterly, in cooperation with the Bureau of Prisons of the Department of Justice, a magazine entitled Federal Probation, which is a journal "of correctional philosophy and practice."

Through the Bankruptcy Division, the Administrative Office, subject to the immediate control of the district courts, is charged with the responsibility of supervising the administration of the Bankruptcy Act by all officers of the bankruptcy courts, including the referees in bankruptcy.


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