United States Court of International Trade 25th Anniversary Celebration Special Session of the Court November 1, 2005

By Gordon, Leo M. | Georgetown Journal of International Law, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview
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United States Court of International Trade 25th Anniversary Celebration Special Session of the Court November 1, 2005


Gordon, Leo M., Georgetown Journal of International Law


May it please the Court. Chief Judge Restani, members of the Court, Senator DeConcini, Chief Judge Emeritus Re, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is a privilege and an honor to be asked to address you on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the United States Court of International Trade.

I stand before you from a unique vantage point on a journey over the past 25 years--as a witness to history--from my days on Capitol Hill as an assistant counsel at the House Judiciary Committee to today as Clerk of the Court.

The saga is one of the emergence of a relatively little known federal court with limited subject matter jurisdiction as a full member of the mainstream of the federal judiciary. No single aspect of the story is momentous, but taken together it paints a mosaic of a modern institution responsive to the needs of its many constituents and playing a significant role in the federal court system.

The prologue to our saga is simple, yet powerful. It is the 60's and 70's, and the community of nations is growing ever closer. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the language of trade is the language of foreign relations. There is great interest in having the framework that governs the peaceful resolution of customs and trade disputes be responsive to the needs of the international trading community. From this need emerges the Trade Agreements Act of 1979 to address the substantive concerns about the trade regime.

It is at this point that our story begins. Recognizing that access to judicial review is critical to the protection of the substantive rights for

all involved in customs and international trade law, Senator Dennis DeConcini and the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, the late Peter W. Rodino, Jr., shepherded the Customs Courts Act of 1980 through Congress.

As a result of their vision, the 1980 Act was designed to provide a comprehensive system for judicial review of civil actions arising out of import transactions affecting international trade. The key was to equip this Court with the tools, including all powers in law and equity, necessary to ensure that those who come before it had full access to the judicial remedies available to litigants in the other federal courts.

Quietly and without fanfare, November 1, 1980 marked another major event in the life of the Court--the implementation of its new rules of practice modeled after the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Some two weeks later, on November 14th, Judge Bernard Newman issued the first opinion dealing with the Court's new equitable powers. From that point, no one looked back, nor questioned the Court's authority to issue a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction.

As the Court emerged from its nascent years, it was apparent that the work of the Court was growing in importance to the international trading community. Articles about customs and trade law were no longer relegated to trade journals or three to five lines in one column on an inside page of the business section of a newspaper. Rather, customs and trade issues, including Court decisions, were beginning to appear in articles in national magazines and above the fold on the front page of major daily newspapers.

Another significant step in the Court's maturity was Congress' authorization for the Court to hold a periodic judicial conference. Consequently, the Court, on 13 occasions, has joined with 300 to 400 customs and trade lawyers, government officials, academics and others interested in the work of the Court to discuss the critical issues affecting the practice of customs and international trade law.

Also at this time came the recognition of the need for an advisory committee on rules and practice, comprised of members of the bar. The purpose was to make sure that the Court's rules of practice and procedure kept pace with the changes in the law and with the modifications to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

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United States Court of International Trade 25th Anniversary Celebration Special Session of the Court November 1, 2005
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