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An Act to establish circuit courts of appeals . . . (Evarts Act), March 3, 1891

Senator William M. Evarts of New York crafted a judiciary bill, based on an earlier one introduced by Representative John Rogers of Arkansas, that promised to reduce the Supreme Court’s caseload. The Evarts Act preserved circuit trial courts while adding circuit courts of appeals and a new judgeship in each circuit. It met broad approval and passed Congress in 1891.

General Records of the U.S. Government, National Archives and Records Administration

An Act to establish circuit courts of appeals An Act to establish circuit courts of appeals An Act to establish circuit courts of appeals An Act to establish circuit courts of appeals An Act to establish circuit courts of appeals An Act to establish circuit courts of appeals An Act to establish circuit courts of appeals An Act to establish circuit courts of appeals

Congress Creates the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals

As the nation expanded after the Civil War, increasing interstate litigation threatened to overwhelm the Supreme Court. To reduce the court’s caseload, Congress in 1891 established circuit courts of appeals, which could hear most cases that previously would have gone to the Supreme Court. For the first time, the highest court had some freedom to select the cases and issues it would decide. It was Congress’s most significant innovation in the federal court system since the Judiciary Act of 1789.

What is the plain, imperative duty of Congress . . . ? It is to provide adequate judicial machinery for the prompt transaction of the business of the Federal courts. If this is not done, these courts, instead of . . . affording speedy and impartial justice . . . will become . . . instruments of oppression

Senator Joseph Dolph of Oregon, “Doubts About Relief Provided by Appeals Courts,” Speech to the U.S. Senate, September 19, 1890