Monday, January 9, 2017

Bowman on the Court of Claims

Recently published in the Federal Lawyer is A Brief History of the Court of Claims, by Winston Bowman, an associate historian in the Federal Judicial History Office at the Federal Judicial Center.  It commences:
President Abraham Lincoln was a busy man in 1861. He was also not renowned for his advocacy of federal judicial power, having attacked the very notion of judicial review in his First Inaugural Address. Even so, in his First Annual Message that December, Lincoln pressed Congress to enhance the power and independence of the Court of Claims as a matter of national urgency. Though forgotten by many contemporary lawyers and absorbed into modern tribunals in 1982, the Court of Claims was created in 1855 to adjudicate monetary claims against the United States and was the first national trial court and first federal court of special jurisdiction. Adjudicating claims on the national purse may sound like the stuff of painstaking detail rather than earthshaking principle, but Lincoln and his compatriots understood that, as the primary vehicle for the government “to render prompt justice against itself,” the Court of Claims could bolster confidence in the federal government’s fairness in times of crisis.