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CRS Annotated Constitution

Article III -- Table of ContentsPrev | Next
[p.785]

Congressional Control Over Writs and Processes.—The Judiciary Act of 1789 contained numerous provisions relating to the times and places for holding court, even of the Supreme Court, to times of adjournment, appointment of officers, issuance of writs, citations for contempt, and many other matters which it might be supposed courts had some authority of their own to regulate.1087 The power to enjoin governmental and private action has frequently been curbed by Congress, especially as the action has involved the power of taxation at either the federal or state level.1088 Though the courts have variously interpreted these restrictions,1089 they have not denied the power to impose them.

Reacting to judicial abuse of injunctions in labor disputes,1090 Congress in 1932 enacted the Norris–La Guardia Act which forbade the issuance of injunctions in labor disputes except through compliance with a lengthy hearing and fact–finding process which required the district judge to determine that only through the injunctive process could irremediable harm through illegal conduct be prevented.1091 The Court seemingly experienced no difficulty upholding the Act,1092 and it has liberally applied it through the years.1093

Congress’ power to confer, withhold, and restrict jurisdiction is clearly revealed in the Emergency Price Control Act of 19421094 and in the cases arising from it. Fearful that the price control pro[p.786]gram might be nullified by injunctions, Congress provided for a special court in which persons could challenge the validity of price regulations issued by the Government with appeal from the Emergency Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court. The basic consitutionality of the Act was sustained in Lockerty v. Phillips.1095 In Yakus v. United States,1096 the Court upheld the provision of the Act which conferred exclusive jurisdiction on the special court to hear challenges to any order or regulation and foreclosed a plea of invalidity of any such regulation or order as a defense to a criminal proceeding under the Act in the regular district courts. Although Justice Rutledge protested in dissent that this provision conferred jurisdiction on district courts from which essential elements of the judicial power had been abstracted,1097 Chief Justice Stone for the Court declared that the provision presented no novel constitutional issue.


Footnotes

1087 1 Stat. 73 . For a comprehensive discussion with itemization, see Frankfurter & Landis, Power of Congress over Procedure in Criminal Contempts in ‘Inferior’ Federal Courts—A Study in Separation of Powers, 37 L. Rev.1010 (1924).
1088 The Act of March 2, 1867, 10, 14 Stat. 475 , as amended, now 26 U.S.C. Sec. 7421 (federal taxes): Act of August 21, 1937, 50 Stat. 738 , 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1341 (state taxes). See also Act of May 14, 1934, 48 Stat. 775 , 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1342 (state rate–making).
1089 Compare Snyder v. Marks, 109 U.S. 189 (1883), with Dodge v. Brady, 240 U.S. 122 (1916); with Allen v. Regents, 304 U.S. 439 (1938).
1090 F. Frankfurter & I. Greene, The Labor Injunction (New York: 1930).
1091 47 Stat. 70 (1932), 29 U.S.C. §§ 101 –115.
1092 In Lauf v. E.G. Shinner & Co., 303 U.S. 323, 330 (1938), the Court simply declared: “There can be no question of the power of Congress thus to define and limit the jurisdiction of the inferior courts of the United States.”
1093 E.g., New Negro Alliance v. Sanitary Grocery Co., 303 U.S. 552 (1938); Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Chicago River & Indiana R.R. Co., 353 U.S. 30 (1957); Boys Market v. Retail Clerks Union, 398 U.S. 235 (1970).
1094 56 Stat. 23 (1942).
1095 319 U.S. 182 (1943).
1096 321 U.S. 414 (1944).
1097 Id., 468. In United States v. Mendoza–Lopez, 481 U.S. 828 (1987), purportedly in reliance on Yakus and other cases, the Court held that a collateral challenge must be permitted to the use of a deportation proceeding as an element of a criminal offense where effective judicial review of the deportation order had been denied. A statutory scheme similar to that in Yakus was before the Court in Adamo Wrecking Co. v. United States, 434 U.S. 275 (1978), but statutory construction enabled the Court to pass by constitutional issues that were not perceived to be insignificant. See esp. id., 289 (Justice Powell concurring). See also Harrison v. PPG Industries, 446 U.S. 578 (1980), and id., 594 (Justice Powell concurring).
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