28 U.S. Code § 2109 - Quorum of Supreme Court justices absent
If a case brought to the Supreme Court by direct appeal from a district court cannot be heard and determined because of the absence of a quorum of qualified justices, the Chief Justice of the United States may order it remitted to the court of appeals for the circuit including the district in which the case arose, to be heard and determined by that court either sitting in banc or specially constituted and composed of the three circuit judges senior in commission who are able to sit, as such order may direct. The decision of such court shall be final and conclusive. In the event of the disqualification or disability of one or more of such circuit judges, such court shall be filled as provided in chapter 15 of this title.
In any other case brought to the Supreme Court for review, which cannot be heard and determined because of the absence of a quorum of qualified justices, if a majority of the qualified justices shall be of opinion that the case cannot be heard and determined at the next ensuing term, the court shall enter its order affirming the judgment of the court from which the case was brought for review with the same effect as upon affirmance by an equally divided court.
Based on portions of section 29 of title 15, U.S.C., 1940 ed., Commerce and Trade, and section 45 of title 49, U.S.C., 1940 ed., Transportation (Feb. 11, 1903, ch. 544, § 2, 32 Stat. 823; Mar. 3, 1911, ch. 231, § 291, 36 Stat. 1167; June 9, 1944, ch. 239, 58 Stat. 272).
The revised section includes the principal provisions of sections 29 and 45 of titles 15 and 49, U.S.C., 1940 ed., respectively, in case of the absence of a quorum of qualified Justices of the Supreme Court.
Sections 29 and 45 of titles 15 and 49, U.S.C., 1940 ed., respectively, were identical and were applicable only to decisions of three-judge courts in antitrust cases under section 107 of said title 15 and Interstate Commerce cases under sections 1, 8, and 12 of said title 49, “or any other acts having a like purpose that may hereinafter be enacted.” The revised section broadens and extends the application of such provisions to include “any case involving a direct appeal to the Supreme Court from the decision of a district court or a district court of three judges which cannot be heard and determined because of the absence of a quorum of qualified justices.” It includes direct appeals in criminal cases under section 3731 of title 18 (H.R. 1600, 80th Cong.).
Sections 29 and 45 of titles 15 and 49, U.S.C., 1940 ed., respectively provided that the Supreme Court certify the case to the Circuit Court of Appeals and that the Senior Circuit Judge, qualified to participate should designate himself and two other circuit judges next in order of seniority. Other provisions were made for designation of circuit judges from other circuits in case of insufficient circuit judges being available in the circuit.
The revised section permits the Chief Justice of the United States to designate the “court of appeals” to hear the case in banc or by means of a specially constituted court of appeals composed of the three circuit judges senior in commission who are able to sit. In case of disqualification or disability, the court shall be filled by designation and assignment as provided in chapter 15 of this title.
The provisions of section 29 of title 15, U.S.C., 1940 ed., and section 45 of title 49, U.S.C., 1940 ed., relating to time for appeal are incorporated in section 2101 of this title. The provisions of said sections for direct appeal to the Supreme Court are retained in said titles 15 and 49.
The second paragraph of the revised section is new. It recognizes the necessity of final disposition of litigation in which appellate review has been had and further review by the Supreme Court is impossible for lack of a quorum of qualified justices.