The Federal Courts: Challenge and Reform

The Federal Courts: Challenge and Reform

The Federal Courts: Challenge and Reform

The Federal Courts: Challenge and Reform

Synopsis

The federal courts are the world's most powerful judiciary and a vital element of the American political system. In recent decades, these courts have experienced unprecedented growth in caseload and personnel. Many judges and lawyers believe that a "crisis in quantity" is imperiling the ability of the federal judiciary to perform its historic function of administering justice fairly and expeditiously. In a substantially revised edition of his widely acclaimed 1985 book "The Federal Courts: Crisis and Reform," Chief Judge Richard A. Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit provides a comprehensive evaluation of the federal judiciary and a detailed program of judicial reform. Drawing on economic and political theory as well as on legal analysis and his own extensive judicial experience, Posner sketches the history of the federal courts, describes the contemporary institution, appraises the concerns that have been expressed with the courts' performance, and presents a variety of proposals for both short-term and fundamental reform. In contrast to some of the direr prophecies of observers of the federal courts, Posner emphasizes the success of these courts in adapting to steep caseload growth with minimum sacrifice in quality.

Although the book ranges over a variety of traditional topics in federal jurisdiction, the focus is steady on federal judicial administration conceived of as an interdisciplinary approach emphasizing system rather than doctrine, statistics rather than impressions, and caseload rather than cases. Like the earlier edition, this book promises to be a landmark in the empirical study of judicial administration.

Excerpt

Article III of the Constitution of the United States ordains the creation of a Supreme Court, authorizes Congress to create other, inferior federal courts as well, and empowers the federal courts to exercise jurisdiction over specified classes of case thought to be of national concern--mainly cases between citizens of different states, admiralty cases, and cases arising under federal law. Out of these provisions, which date back to 1789, has grown the large, complex, powerful, controversial, and somewhat overworked judicial system that is the subject of' this book. My intent, in this edition as in the earlier The Federal Courts: Crisis and Reform, published in 1985, is to describe, and as best I can explain, the system; to evaluate the proposals for improving it; and to make my own proposals for improvement.

Much has changed since the earlier edition. the changes not only warrant a new edition but require that it be a substantial, indeed a radical, revision of the first; and that is what I have tried to do. the changes in and concerning the federal court system that are reflected in this edition are both objective and subjective. the objective include changes, some quite unexpected, in the workload of the different tiers of' the federal judicial system (district courts, courts of appeals, and Supreme Court); a continued expansion in the number of federal judges; the promulgation of federal sentencing guidelines, which have significantly affected the trial and appeal of federal criminal cases; an expansion of federal criminal jurisdiction in response to rising public concern with crimes of violence; a continued rapid increase in prisoner civil rights suits, despite the ever higher procedural and substantive hurdles that they must clear; a substantial over- haul of the system for compensating federal judges; some significant changes in federal jurisdiction (notably the elimination of all but the tiniest vestiges of' the Supreme Court's mandatory jurisdiction) . . .

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