Judiciary acts

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The entire judiciary, with the exception of the Supreme Court, is based around a series of judiciary acts passed by Congress. The U.S. Constitution, as seen from Article III, merely necessitates the institution of a Supreme Court. How many justices are on the Supreme Court is not stated by the Constitution, and the Supreme Court is given only limited power to hear cases constitutionally.

History of Judiciary Acts

Congress passed numerous judiciary acts throughout history changing the structure and scope of the courts, as well as the number of Supreme Court Justices, including:[1]

  • Judiciary Act of 1789: Established the federal judiciary with 6 Supreme Court Justices, 13 federal judicial districts, circuit and judicial courts, a U.S. Attorney General, and a U.S. Attorney and U.S. Marshall for each district. Instituted the ultimately unpopular practice of 'circuit riding' that would eventually be repealed over a century later. Provided protections to the right of trial by jury.
  • Judiciary Act of 1801: Changed the number of Supreme Court Justices from 6 to 5, doubled the number of circuit courts from 3 to 6, changed the number of district courts to 10, eliminated the practice of 'circuit riding,' and expanded circuit court jurisdiction. It was a power grab by the Federalist Party following historic losses to the Anti-Federalist Party, and is nicknamed the 'Midnight Judges Act' for its attempt to appoint numerous Federalist Judges just before the newly elected Anti-Federalist Congress was to be seated.
  • Judiciary Act of 1802: Repealed parts of the Judiciary Act of 1801. It changed the number of Supreme Court Justices back to 6, restored the practice of 'circuit riding,' and removed the new circuit judgeships that had been created. Additional district courts were created and district court judges saw their jurisdiction restricted.
  • 1807: Increased the number of Supreme Court Justices from 6 to 7. Created a 7th circuit court. Expanded jurisdiction for district courts to hear cases previously heard only by circuit courts. Required that justices reside in their districts.
  • 1837: Expanded the number of Supreme Court Justices from 7 to 9 and the number of circuit courts from 7 to 9.
  • 1855: Expanded the number of circuit courts from 9 to 10. Repealed the district court jurisdiction for the newly created California district court. Provided an annual salary of $4500 for judges.
  • Judiciary Act of 1863: Changed the number of Supreme Court seats from 7 to 10.
  • Judiciary Act of 1866: Reduced the number of Supreme Court seats from 10 to 7. Changed the boundaries of judicial circuits and reduced the number of them from 10 to 9. Prohibited President Andrew Johnson from appointing any Supreme Court Justices.
  • Circuit Judges Act of 1869: Increased the number of Supreme Court seats from 7 to 9. Allowed federal judges to retire without losing their salaries. Mandated $5,000 salaries for circuit court judges. Reduced the burden of circuit riding for Supreme Court Justices.
  • 1875:
  • Judiciary Act of 1891:
  • 1911:
  • 1922:
  • Judges Bill of 1925: Redefined circuit court jurisdiction and allowed rulings via writ of certiorari while reducing Supreme Court caseloads by repealing Supreme Court mandatory jurisdiction.
  • 1929: Created a new 10th circuit while dividing the 8th circuit into two.
  • 1939: Created the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Mandated annual circuit conferences.
  • 1967: Established a Federal Judicial Center.
  • Bankruptcy Reform Act of 1978: Established U.S. Bankruptcy Courts. Revised and codified Title 11 of the U.S. Code relating to bankruptcy law.
  • Federal Magistrates Act of 1968: Replaced the Judicial Conference's previous commissioner system with a magistrate system.
  • 1980: Increased the number of circuits from 10 to 11 and divided the 5th circuit into two.
  • 1982: Established the federal U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. Abolished the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals and the U.S. Court of Claims, reassigned the judges to the new Court of Appeals, and instituted a new U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

Modern Judiciary Act

For proposed legislation, see Political Reforms

A modern judiciary act is sorely needed, as the judiciary has begun the decline to tyranny which Thomas Jefferson predicted when he warned "That to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty because he being of course judge of that tendency will make his opinions the rule of judgment and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own." A modern judiciary act should be created to implement broad reforms to the judicial system in the same way that numerous judiciary acts have done so in the past.

This would be entirely consistent with Article III of the U.S. Constitution which delegates to Congress structuring of the court system, and with Article VI which mandates that judges uphold laws passed by Congress. The President himself is likewise responsible for upholding the laws passed by Congress, and appointing judges he knew would obstruct Congressional laws would violate his own oath of office (Article II, Sec. 3).

Article III clearly states, from the beginning, that the judicial power is subject to Congressional determination, and further states that Congress has the right to specify what the punishments for specific crimes should be, as well as where trial jurisdiction should lie. Not only does Congress have complete authority to institute lower courts at will, but even the Supreme Court can be regulated, since Congress can determine where Supreme Court trials are held and what the punishment for crimes such as treason should be.

"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."

"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."

"...but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed."

"The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason..."

Judicial Term Limits, Narrowed Jurisdiction, Etc.

The single most important reform needed from a modern judiciary act is restriction of court jurisdiction, mandating that the courts be accountable to laws passed by Congress (as the Constitution says they should be in Art. VI). Without that reform, the Supreme Court and lower courts will continue to declare laws passed by Congress (e.g. the Defense of Marriage Act) are unconstitutional, that Presidential Cabinet appointments (e.g. Matthew Whitaker) are unconstitutional, and that executive orders are unconstitutional (e.g. the travel ban).

Such a judiciary act should implement term limits on federal judges and Supreme Court Justices, requiring them to be reappointed by the President every 8 years in order to retain their positions. It should also specifically enumerate what fundamental Creator-given rights exist (to life, religious freedom, bear arms, trial by jury, a speedy public trial in criminal cases, a fair trial, and fair imprisonment), restore an emphasis on jury decisions instead of those by judges per the 6th Amendment, remove immunity for public officials to the extent allowed under Article 1, Sec. 6 of the U.S. Constitution, and eliminate plea bargaining. Judges who have voted for gay marriage and against voter-approved ballot referendums (per Obergefell v. Hodges) should be impeached and removed whenever possible at both the federal and state levels, given their opposition to the principle of democracy fundamental to the U.S. Constitution.

My proposed legislation includes many more reforms, including removal of appellate courts so that jury decisions become absolute, freeing of those who don't get speedy trials within 72 hours, removal of onerous fees with courts fully funded by the U.S. Treasury or state funds (e.g. filing fees, fees for jail/prison stays/probation or parole supervision/electronic monitoring devices/arrest warrants, healthcare/medication/court administration/prosecution/court-ordered drug and alcohol abuse treatment), limited jurisdiction of the courts, a prohibition on plea bargaining, and the removal of qualified immunity.

References