The Judicial Business of a Nineteenth-Century Federal Trial Court: The Northern District of California, 1851-1891
Christian G. Fritz
University of New Mexico School of Law
Western Legal History, Vol. 5, No. 2, 1992
Studies of the work of American trial courts – particularly the federal courts in the nineteenth century – are extremely rare. One exception is Federal Justice in California: The Court of Ogden Hoffman, 1851-1891 (1991) – an archival study of the forty year tenure of the first judge of the Northern District of California. Federal Justice is both an institutional study of that court and a biography of its first judge, Ogden Hoffman. Federal Justice rests upon an analysis of over 19,000 case files generated by the first forty years of that court’s existence and provides a general summary of the dockets and workload of the court.
The present study presents a more detailed and statistical analysis of the number, type, and disposition of cases than was available in Federal Justice. It analyzes the court’s eight dockets: Private Admiralty (Chinese habeas corpus petitions), Criminal, Private Admiralty (non-Chinese habeas petitions), Bankruptcy, U.S. Admiralty, Bond Cases, Common Law and Equity, and Private Land Grants. In offering a breakdown of the totality of the workload of the court, it gives a unique and dynamic picture of the workings of a federal trial court of the nineteenth century: the discretionary nature of federal trial court prosecutions; the independence of federal prosecutors; and the varied experiences of federal litigants. The analysis is supplemented by 17 tables and graphs, most of which were not included in Federal Justice.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 35Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: October 24, 2010
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