Three-Judge Court Act.

When the Court in Ex parte Young1363 held that federal courts were not precluded by the Eleventh Amendment from restraining state officers from enforcing state laws determined to be in violation of the federal Constitution, serious efforts were made in Congress to take away the authority thus asserted, but the result instead was legislation providing that suits in which an interlocutory injunction was sought against the enforcement of state statutes by state officers were to be heard by a panel of three federal judges, rather than by a single district judge, with appeal direct to the Supreme Court.1364 The provision was designed to assuage state feeling by vesting such determinations in a court more prestigious than a single-judge district court, to assure a more authoritative determination, and to prevent the assertion of individual predilections in sensitive and emotional areas.1365 Because, however, of the heavy burden that convening a three-judge court placed on the judiciary and that the direct appeals placed on the Supreme Court, the provisions for such courts, save in cases “when otherwise required by an Act of Congress”1366 or in cases involving state legislative or congressional districting, were repealed by Congress in 1976.1367

Footnotes

1363
209 U.S. 123 (1908). [Back to text]
1364
36 Stat. 557 (1910). The statute was amended in 1925 to apply to requests for permanent injunctions, 43 Stat. 936, and again in 1937 to apply to constitutional attacks on federal statutes. 50 Stat. 752. [Back to text]
1365
Swift & Co. v. Wickham, 382 U.S. 111, 119 (1965); Ex parte Collins, 277 U.S. 565, 567 (1928). [Back to text]
1366
These now are primarily limited to suits under the Voting Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1973b(a), 1973c, 1973h(c), and to certain suits by the Attorney General under public accommodations and equal employment provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000a–5(b), 2000e–6(b). [Back to text]
1367
Pub. L. 94–381, 90 Stat. 1119, 28 U.S.C. § 2284. In actions still required to be heard by three-judge courts, direct appeals are still available to the Supreme Court. 28 U.S.C. § 1253. [Back to text]