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Congressional Power Of Jurisdiction Outline

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This is an extract of our Congressional Power Of Jurisdiction document, which we sell as part of our Federal Courts Outlines collection written by the top tier of Harvard Law School students.

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I. CONGRESSIONAL POWER OF JURISDICTION Congressional Power to Withdraw Original Federal Jurisdiction Congress is not required to vest inferior federal courts with original jurisdiction over Article III diversity cases (Sheldon). The Court has emphasized that "only the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is derived directly from the Constitution. Every other [federal court] derives its jurisdiction wholly form the authority of Congress. That body may give, withhold, or restrict such jurisdiction at its discretion" (Kline v. Burke Constr. Co.). In his Crowell v. Benson dissent, Justice Brandeis argued that nothing in Article III "requires any controversy to be determined as of first instance in the federal district courts. The jurisdiction of those courts is subject to the control of Congress. Matters which may be placed within their jurisdiction may instead be committed to the state courts" or in Article I courts, subject only to the limitations of the Due Process Clause. Restriction of Jurisdiction in Constitutional Cases. In Lauf, the Court upheld the Norris-LaGuardia Act, which withdrew original federal jurisdiction over certain labor disputes, including those implicating constitutional questions (under the Lochner-era Due Process Clause). The Court stated broadly that "there can be no question of the power of Congress to define and limit the jurisdiction of the inferior courts of the United States." Professor Hart interpreted Lauf as establishing that the Constitution does not "give people any right to proceed ... in the first instance, in a federal rather than a state court." Others read Lauf as only upholding a limit on federal courts' ability to award a particular remedy that was not constitutionally required. Lauf is notable, in any case, in that it supports McCardle's statement that Congress's intent in enacting a jurisdiction stripping statute is irrelevant to the statute's constitutionality. The Norris-LaGuardia Act was clearly motivated by objections to the substance of federal judicial decisions in labor disputes. Professor Gunther suggests that the Supreme Court's acceptance of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, the Tax Injunction Act, and the Johnson Act, establishes that "the basic structure of Article III affords Congress the power to redraw jurisdictional lines in part because it dislikes certain federal court decisions." Congressional Power to Withdraw the Supreme Court's Appellate Jurisdiction Congress possesses the constitutional authority to make "Exceptions" to the Supreme Court's appellate jurisdiction. In McCardle, the Court upheld the constitutionality of a statute that withdrew the Court's appellate jurisdiction over certain habeas cases, including habeas cases raising constitutional questions. The Court emphasized that the Court was "not at liberty to inquire into the motives of the legislature" in enacting the jurisdiction stripping provision, but noted that the statute did not deprive the Court of its original jurisdiction over habeas petitions. And in Yerger, the Court ruled that it retained original jurisdiction over habeas petitions raising constitutional questions. Thus, it is unclear whether Congress could, pursuant to its Exception Clause power, totally deprive the Supreme Court of appellate jurisdiction over a case raising constitutional question. In Felker, the Court confronted a situation that was analogous to that in McCardle. The Court ruled that a statute withdrawing its certiorari jurisdiction over certain habeas cases was constitutional, emphasizing that the statute had not affected its authority to entertain original habeas petitions. In concurrence, Justice Souter reserved the question that would be presented if the courts of appeals "adopted divergent interpretations of the" relevant habeas statute, or if it should turn out, in practice, that "statutory avenues other than certiorari" were not available. Reach of the Exceptions Clause power. Professor Hart argued that the Exceptions Clause must recognize an internal limit: "Exceptions must not be such as will destroy the essential role of the Supreme Court in the Constitutional plan." Extrapolating on this, Professor Ratner argues that, to be constitutionally valid, "exceptions" to the Court's appellate jurisdiction must not "negate" the Court's essential constitutional functions of maintaining the uniformity and supremacy of federal law. "Legislation that precludes Supreme Court review in every case involving a particular subject is an unconstitutional encroachment," he

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