Congressional Control Over Writs and Processes.

The Ju- diciary 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.1248 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.1249 Though the courts have variously interpreted these restrictions,1250 they have not denied the power to impose them.

Reacting to judicial abuse of injunctions in labor disputes,1251 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.1252 The Court seemed to experience no difficulty in upholding the Act,1253 and it has liberally applied it through the years.1254

Congress’s power to confer, withhold, and restrict jurisdiction is clearly revealed in the Emergency Price Control Act of 19421255 and in the cases arising from it. Fearful that the price control program 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 constitutionality of the Act was sustained in Lockerty v. Phillips.1256 In Yakus v. United States,1257 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,1258 Chief Justice Stone for the Court declared that the provision presented no novel constitutional issue.


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 HARV. L. REV. 1010 (1924). back
The Act of March 2, 1867, 10, 14 Stat. 475, as amended, now 26 U.S.C. § 7421 (federal taxes): Act of August 21, 1937, 50 Stat. 738, 28 U.S.C. § 1341 (state taxes). See also Act of May 14, 1934, 48 Stat. 775, 28 U.S.C. § 1342 (state rate-making). back
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). back
47 Stat. 70 (1932), 29 U.S.C. §§ 101115. back
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.” back
E.g., New Negro Alliance v. Sanitary Grocery Co., 303 U.S. 552 (1938); Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen v. Chicago River & I. R.R., 353 U.S. 30 (1957); Boys Markets v. Retail Clerks Union, 398 U.S. 235 (1970). back
56 Stat. 23 (1942). back
319 U.S. 182 (1943). back
321 U.S. 414 (1944). back
321 U.S. at 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. at 289 (Justice Powell concurring). See also Harrison v. PPG Industries, 446 U.S. 578 (1980), and id. at 594 (Justice Powell concurring). back