The Circuit Court of Appeal
The Circuit Courts of Appeal were created by the Evarts Act of 1891. When created, they were almost exclusively appellate courts. Each bench was to consist of one circuit court judge, one circuit court of appeals judge, one district court judge, and a Supreme Court justice, with only two judges needed for a quorum. This system was designed to assist the Supreme Court with its backlog, and much of the Supreme Court's caseload was shifted to the circuit courts of appeal. However, the circuit courts of appeal only took over certain types of appeals, all others were still appealed directly to the Supreme court.
These provisions underwent alterations throughout the twentieth century. In 1911 Congress passed a Judicial Code which abolished the circuit courts by merging them with the district courts and increased the jurisdiction of the circuit courts of appeal. The Judges Bill of 1925 again increased the jurisdiction of the circuit courts of appeal and gave the Supreme Court the right of declination. As a result, only a very limited class of cases from the district courts were granted direct appeal to the Supreme Court, and the circuit courts of appeal was frequently the last recourse for cases on appeal. The name "Circuit Court of Appeals" was changed to "Court of Appeals" by the Judicial Code of 1948. Today the courts of appeal have original jurisdiction to review and enforce the orders of many federal administrative agencies in addition to its appellate jurisdiction. The decisions of the courts of appeal may be reviewed by the Supreme Court through a writ of certiori. However, for particularly noteworthy cases, the Supreme Court may grant certiori before the court of appeals has rendered its final decision.
Unlike the Supreme Court, the court of appeals must hear all appeals brought before it. Most of the cases reviewed originate in the federal district courts. Robert Carp and Ronald Stidham have analyzed those appeals and divided them into five categories or types.
The main purpose of review in the Courts of Appeals is error correction. Judges are called upon to monitor the performance of federal district courts and federal agencies and to supervise their application and interpretation of national and state laws. In doing so, the courts of appeals do not seek out new factual evidence, but instead examine the record of the lower court for errors.
In the process of reviewing these numerous cases, the Court of Appeals judges investigate legal issues that may be considered worthy of review by the Supreme Court in future. The opinions of the Court of Appeals judges may alter the focus of the case sufficiently to change it from a routine case to one with constitutional or political significance, the types of causes in which the Supreme Court has the most interest.
There are several methods employed by the Court of Appeals to review a case. The first step in the review process is screening the appeals. Through screening, the judge decides whether to grant the case opportunity for oral argument or dispose of it in some other way. Court personnel, generally law clerks or staff attorneys, perform the screening. They read petitions and briefs and submit their recommendations to the judges. This process eliminates more than half of the cases, a decision is reached without resorting to any oral argument. The cases which are granted a full treatment are scheduled for oral argument and brought up before a panel of three judges. The attorneys for each side are given a short amount of time to discuss the points made in their written briefs and to answer questions from the judges. The judges confer and render their decision, occasionally accompanying the decision with a written opinion. If, within a circuit, two similar cases have been decided differently by two different panels, the court may utilize an en banc procedure to resolve the conflict; all the court of appeal judges of that circuit sit on a panel together and decide the case. The en banc procedure may also be used in cases of extreme importance, or when the litigants request it, although the court may deny such a request.
One of the most important events to modern judiciary took place on September 14, 1922 when Congress passed an Act to create a Conference of the Senior Circuit Judges of the United States, which later came to be known as the Judicial Conference of the United States. This conference was to take place in Washington at least once each year to discuss issues in the federal courts and consider solutions to any problems faced by the courts. An Act in 1937 required the conference to "advise as to any matters in respect of which the administration of justice in the courts of the United States may be improved."
The result of these two Acts of Congress and the meetings of the conference was the Administrative Office Act of 1939. This act made the judiciary financially independent, unified its administration, and provided a mechanism for self-regulation. The Act did this by setting up an Administrative Office for the judiciary whose purpose is "to prepare the budget, to gather statistics as to the functioning of the courts, to disburse funds, provide equipment and accommodations, audit vouchers, and generally to handle the business necessary to the operation of the judicial machinery." The Administrative Office is under the supervision of the Judicial Conference of the United States. The budget the Administrative Office prepares is considered by the Conference, and, if passed, is submitted for Congressional approval without revision.
In addition to setting up the Administrative Office, the Act also sets up a Judicial Council for each circuit composed of all the circuit and district judges of that circuit. The Judicial Council is responsible for overseeing the administration within its circuit and ensuring that new regulations are implemented. The Judicial Councils hold annual conferences to discuss success, failure and possible improvement in their administration of justice.
Judge John Parker wrote, on the effectiveness of this new system,
The fourteen years which have passed since the enactment of the Administrative Office Act have witnessed great improvement in the federal judicial system as a result of the improved machinery for exploring the problems presented in the administration of justice and of the opportunity given to the judges to advise Congress with respect thereto. The conference aided by the Circuit Conferences and Councils and by committees appointed by the Conference itself, composed very largely of District Judges, has given careful consideration to such matters as the adoption amendment of the Federal Civil and Criminal Rules, the setting up of a promotional policy for judicial employees, the prescribing of standards for probation officers, and the supervision of the practices of referees in bankruptcy. It has sponsored important measures which have been enacted into law such as the bill creating the Administrative Office, the bill abolishing the antiquated fee system in bankruptcy and provided fixed salaries for referees, and the bill providing a system of salaried court reporters for the trial courts. It now meets twice each year at the call of the Chief Justice of the United States, and at these semiannual sessions gives consideration to problems which have arisen affecting the administration of justice. Its advice is ordinarily asked by the committees of Congress as to any proposed legislation affecting the judiciary.The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit includes the districts of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Puerto Rico and is allotted seven judges. The headquarters of the First Circuit are in Boston, Massachusetts.
Hugh H. Bownes
The older of two sons of working-class Irish immigrants, Judge Bownes was born in the Bronx in 1920. He earned scholarships to prep school and then to Columbia University and Law School and helped put himself through school by delivering groceries for the local A&P. As a Marine during World War II, he fought at Guadalcanal and Bougainville. In the Solomon Islands he won the Silver Star for leading a reconnaissance team. During the invasion of Guam, he was struck by a mortar round, severely damaging his leg.
Judge Bownes took his first job with a law firm in Laconia, where he lived most of his adult life. He was a delegate to the 1956 Democratic National Convention and a member of the Democratic National Committee. Both he and his late wife, Irja, served on the Laconia City Council. Judge Bownes was mayor for one term and ran an unsuccessful campaign for the NH State Senate. He was a Superior Court judge for less than two years before Lyndon B. Johnson named him to the U.S. District Court in 1968. In 1977 he was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. At the time of his death, he was living in Branford, Conn., with his second wife, Mary Davis. Survivors include his brother, three children, three stepchildren, fifteen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Judge Bownes began his civil rights crusade early when, as a young lawyer, he represented a Conway man accused of hiding Communists. He received national attention when, as a district court judge, he issued a ruling describing the harsh and inhumane conditions of the NH Prison. As a result, the State overhauled its prison system. In some of his more noteworthy decisions during his decade on the federal bench in Concord, he found that NE Telephone & Telegraph discriminated against female employees, that gay students at UNH had the right to hold a dance, that a farm boy from Pittsfield had the right to wear blue jeans to school, that the State's flag desecration law was too broad and that George Maynard had the right to cover "Live Free or Die" on his license plate.
The Union Leader's editorials trounced him; many local lawyers worshiped him. But his colleagues say he seemed oblivious to both, treating everyone, friend or foe, or brand new attorney, with courtesy, humor and respect. But Judge Bownes was no pushover. He expected everyone to be prepared. He kept juries entertained and lawyers on their toes. From the federal appeals court, he continued to champion equal rights. In 1994 he wrote an opinion that strengthened Title IX, the law that mandates equal funding for men's and women's sports. Columbia University honored Judge Bownes in 1987 with the John Jay Award for Distinguished Professional Achievement, recognizing him "[a]s one who has never let fear of controversy deter him from vigorously upholding the freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights."
David H. Souter
David H. Souter was born on September 17, 1939 in Massachusetts, moving to Weare, New Hampshire while still a boy. He graduated from Harvard College in 1961 with an A.B. degree. He subsequently attended Magdalen College, Oxford from 1961 to 1963 as a Rhodes Scholar. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1966. Souter received both his A.B. and M.A. degrees in Jurisprudence from Oxford University in 1989.
David Souter has served the state of New Hampshire in the legal profession since his graduation from Harvard Law School. He was an associate at Orr and Reno from 1966 to 1968 and was then appointed to public service as Assistant Attorney General in 1968. He became Deputy Attorney General in 1971 and Attorney General in 1976. Souter was appointed Associate Justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court in 1978 and Associate Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court in 1983. He was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and was sworn in on May 25, 1990 in the Cleveland Federal Building in Concord.
On July 23, 1990, Justice Souter was nominated by President George Bush to the Supreme Court of the United States. He was confirmed by the senate and sworn in on October 8, 1990 as the 105th Justice.
Justice David Souter has been a member and president of the Concord Hospital Board of Trustees, a New Hampshire Historical Society Trustee, a member of the Dartmouth Medical School Board of Overseers, a member of the National Association of Attorneys General, the New Hampshire Bar Association, and the American Bar Association.
Norman H. Stahl
Norman Stahl was born in Manchester, New Hampshire, on January 30, 1931. He went on from the Manchester public schools to graduate in 1952 from Tufts College, magna cum laude. Stahl took his law degree from Harvard in 1955, serving as law clerk to Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice John V. Spalding from 1955 to 1956.
Stahl was admitted to the Bar of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the Federal Court in Massachusetts in 1955, and the New Hampshire State and Federal District Court bars in 1956. In the same year, he joined what was then the firm of Devine and Millimet (subsequently Devine, Millimet, Stahl and Branch). He served as Acting Manchester City Solicitor (1975) and was a member and chairman of the board of the New Hampshire Bar Examiners. He was a member of the Commission for Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad and served as a State and National delegate to the Republican Party Convention in 1988. He was a member of and chairman of the Judicial Council of the State of New Hampshire. Stahl served the citizens of Manchester through a number of organizations, including the Board of Trustees of Elliot Hospital, the Manchester Historic Association, the Manchester Institute of Arts and Sciences, and the Manchester Jewish Federation. Stahl was appointed to the federal bench by President George Bush after confirmation by the United States Senate on April 5, 1990. In 1992, he was nominated to the United States Court of Appeals and was confirmed by the United States Senate for the position on June 30, 1992. He has served as a member of the Federal Courts' Technology Committee, member and Chairman of the Federal Courts' Security and Facilities Committee and currently serves on the Federal Courts' Budget Committee. He took senior status on April 16, 2001.
Judge Stahl is married to Sue H. Stahl and currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts. The Stahls have two children.
Jeffrey R. Howard
Federal Judicial Service: U. S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit; Nominated by George W. Bush on September 4, 2001, to a seat vacated by Norman H. Stahl; Confirmed by the Senate on April 23, 2002, and received commission on May 3, 2002.
Education: Plymouth State College, B.A., 1978; Georgetown University Law Center, J.D., 1981
Professional Career: Attorney, Office of the New Hampshire Attorney General, 1981-1988; Deputy attorney general, Office of the New Hampshire Attorney General, 1988-1989; U.S. Attorney for the District of New Hampshire, 1989-1993; State Attorney General, New Hampshire, 1993-1997; Private practice, New Hampshire, 1997-2002.