Other Federal Court Decisions

Formerly, the United States Supreme Court had mandatory appellate jurisdiction over the judgments of the district courts.  The mandatory appellate jurisdiction of the United States Supreme Court was abolished in 1988 and presently appeals from district court judgments finding acts of Congress unconstitutional must be taken to the appropriate court of appeals.[i]  Direct appeal is restricted to certain specific  types of decisions of the district courts.

Similarly, the United States Supreme Court formerly had direct appellate jurisdiction of appeals from district court rulings invalidating federal statutes.  Under the current law, the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction is limited to direct appeals from the decisions of three-judge district courts.[ii]

Thus, where a three-judge District Court’s judgment enjoining elections under unconstitutional state apportionment statutes was subject to review only by Supreme Court under 28 USCS § 1253, District Court’s order denying leave to intervene was also reviewable only by Supreme Court under § 1253, so as not to be reviewable by Court of Appeals. [iii] If properly convened three-judge district court’s order is construed as one granting or denying injunction, then appeal must be to Supreme Court under 28 USCS § 1253 and Court of Appeals would be without jurisdiction to hear it. [iv]

Regarding denial of award of attorney’s fees and denying motion to intervene in action pertaining to reapportionment of state legislature, the court held that only United States Supreme Court, and not Court of Appeals, had jurisdiction of appeal from an order of a three-judge District Court.  The court further held that Supreme Court jurisdiction was exclusive even though appeal from order denying motion to intervene had previously been dismissed by Supreme Court for want of an appealable order. [v]

In addition to its power to review the decisions of court of appeals and district courts, the United States Supreme Court has jurisdiction to review the decisions of other federal courts like the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces[vi] and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.[vii]  The United States Supreme Court derives its power to review the decisions of such specialized courts from the Constitution of the United States.[viii]  Thus, the United States Supreme Court has power to review decisions of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces in cases in which the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces granted relief.[ix]  The United States Supreme Court has jurisdiction to review any decision granting “relief,” and the jurisdiction is not confined to those decisions providing “ultimate relief” or “complete relief.”  It is common practice for appellate courts to reverse and remand lower court judgments, rather than issuing complete relief.  There is no merit to the view that a decision granting partial relief should be construed as granting no relief at all.[x]

[i] 28 U.S.C.S. § 1291

[ii] 28 USCS § 1253

[iii] Benson v. Beens, 456 F.2d 244 (8th Cir. 1972)

[iv] Thoms v. Heffernan, 473 F.2d 478 (2d Cir. Conn. 1973)

[v] Weiser v. White, 505 F.2d 912 (5th Cir. Tex. 1975)

[vi] 28 U.S.C.A. § 1259

[vii] 50 U.S.C.A. § 1803(b)

[viii] U.S. Const. Art. III, § 2, cl. 2

[ix] United States v. Denedo, 129 S. Ct. 2213, 2219 (U.S. 2009)

[x] Arthur Andersen LLP v. Carlisle, 173 L. Ed. 2d 832 (U.S. 2009)


Inside Other Federal Court Decisions