Discover Lower Court Records that Address Significant Historical Issues


| By Bennett Graff, Senior Acquisitions Editor, Gale |

In 1891, Congress established the modern federal appellate court system with passage of the Judiciary Act. Also known as the Evarts Act in recognition of the work by then New York Senator William M. Evarts, this bit of legislation organized the numerically designated regional circuit system that would become our modern federal appeals courts. Designed to hear cases on appeal from trial courts from within their regional circuits, the federal appellate courts from the period of 1950 to 1980 comprised 11 districts—10 regional districts composed of specific, usually adjacent, states (or territories) and 1 district devoted exclusively to cases filed within the District of Columbia (otherwise designated the “federal district”).

Unlike the trial courts below them where judges and juries hear testimony and review evidence, federal appeals court judges typically received briefs that argued key issues regarding the lower court decision and heard out attorneys for both sides through oral argument. And in contrast to federal appeals court opinions, the briefs themselves remain largely inaccessible. InThe Making of Modern Law: Landmark Records and Briefs of the U.S. Courts of Appeals, 1950‒1980Gale rectifies this situation by dramatically expanding access to briefs from selected cases during this important 30-year period in American legal and social history. Researchers can read briefs from appellants, appellees, and their supporters (amicus briefs) alongside their respective replies to one another, appendices, memoranda, petitions, plaintiff statements, transcripts, and other key documentation.

A comprehensive offering of every brief filed during this period across all of the appellate circuits would’ve required the digitization of tens of millions of pages. But legal scholars will be the first to note that not all cases carry equal weight in terms of their impact on American law or on social and public policy. In order to address this challenge, Gale focused its efforts on providing access to briefs for those cases that number among the most heavily cited in law journal articles. The decision to focus on this citation statistic made it possible to concentrate on those cases that address more than just legal technicalities—cases that might find themselves cited more heavily in case law itself. A high level of citation within law journal articles speaks more explicitly to issues of greater substance both in terms of legal application and social and political effects.


道森诉市长和巴尔的摩市议会was a 1955 decision that helped sweep away efforts to retain separate but equal facilities, in this case for public parks. Source:道森诉市长和巴尔的摩市的市议会,220 F.2d 386(1955)。上诉人的简短。上诉案6903号美国法院第四巡回。

不过,也有人并不少见主题,以反映地区差异。所以第二巡回,涵盖康涅狄格州,纽约州和佛蒙特州,用最大的份额来自新产品在纽约的一般讨论了有关财务事项的情况下,如证券交易Com'n诉得克萨斯海湾硫磺公司,a 1968 case that helped set a legal standard for insider trading. For the Fourth Circuit, which encompassed Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, civil rights issues came to the fore in such cases asSimkins v. Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital(a 1963 appellate ruling that struck down the maintenance of separate but equal facilities at a hospital that received federal funding) and道森诉市长和巴尔的摩市的市议会(a 1955 decision that helped sweep away efforts to retain separate but equal facilities, in this case for public parks). Out west, in the Tenth Circuit, representing the states of Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming, cases appear related to the plight of those not legally resident in the United States, such asFernandez v. Wilkinson,a 1980 decision that curtailed the use of indefinite detention of undocumented immigrants.

然而,正如已经指出的那样,案件大量of topics could appear within any of the circuits in question. In the First Circuit, covering the states of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, and Rhode Island,United States v. Spock在1969年将测试草案躲避作为免费语音的形式的限制;第三巡回,包括特拉华州,新泽西州和宾夕法尼亚州,法院在判决的状态Pritchard v. Liggett & Myers Tobacco Companywould assess the culpability of tobacco companies for the carcinogenic effects of their products; and in the Fifth Circuit, which covered Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas,唐纳森诉奥康纳a 1974 case that reached the Supreme Court and would forever change the rights of mental health patients.

在他的回答简短,被上诉人攻击在美国政府的说法变“阴谋”。资源:United States v. Spock,416 F.2d 165 (1969). Reply brief. Docket No. 7205. United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
United States v. Spockin 1969 would test the limits of draft dodging as a form of free speech. Source:United States v. Spock,416 F.2d 165 (1969). Reply brief. Docket No. 7205. United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

But these cases remain the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Researchers will find cases on a slew of issues that range far beyond matters of law and delve deeply into matters of public policy and civic culture. These cases consider the treatment of:

  • 生育权in the First Circuit’s ruling onBaird v. Eisenstadt(1969), which overturned a Massachusetts prohibition on the distribution of contraception to unmarried couples.
  • Environmental lawin the Second Circuit’s decision regardingScenic Hudson Preservation Conf. v. Federal Power Commission,1965年,授予环保groups legal standing to represent conservation efforts in the courts.
  • Mental health and patient rights,as covered in the Third Circuit’sUnited States v. Currens,a 1961 decision that set a new standard for whether a mentally impaired individual could be held criminally responsible.
  • 工人权利和种族in the Fourth Circuit’s conclusion inRobinson诉罗瑞拉德公司,1970年的情况下强调种族基础上的不同就业机会的歧视性影响。
  • 青年和学生权利in the Fifth Circuit’s approach toDixon v. Alabama State Board of Education,1961年的决定,更改信息以家长laws by granting students the rights of due process at institutions of higher education.
  • Religious freedom在第六巡回情况Sequoyah v. Tennessee Valley Authority,which in 1980 refined the claim of centrality with questions of religious freedom or cultural life.
  • Free speech在第七巡回的看法科林诉史密斯,1978年的决定,其中最有争议的储藏的言论自由权在伊利诺斯州Skokie纳粹示威遗体。
  • Prison reformin the Eighth Circuit case ofHolt v. Sarver,a 1978 ruling that deemed the entire Arkansas prison system as being in violation of the Eighth Amendment.
  • Consumer protectionin the Ninth Circuit’s decision onDavis v. Wyeth Laboratories, Inc.,所测试的厂家obligational限制以警告消费者1962有争议的医疗标签的情况。
  • Corporate responsibilityin the Tenth Circuit’s treatment of丝克伍诉科麦奇公司,影响核电站责任的重要情况。
  • 刑事责任in the District Court’s take on达勒姆诉美国,a 1954 ruling that established the jury rule of allowing for a finding of not guilty for reason of insanity.
Baird v. Eisenstadt(1969) concerned a Massachusetts prohibition on the distribution of contraception to unmarried couples. The appellee’s brief argues for a “legitimate legislative purpose” for that prohibition. Source:Baird v. Eisenstadt,429 F.2d 1398 (1970). Appellee’s brief. Docket No. 7578. United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.
Davis v. Wyeth Laboratories, Inc.是,测试的厂商obligational限制以警告消费者1962有争议的医疗标签的情况。在这个简短的回复,律师从雷耶斯的律师惠氏比赛的论点。资源:雷耶斯诉惠氏实验室,498 F.2d 1264 (1974). Reply brief. Docket No. 722251. United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Durham v. United Statestested jury findings of not guilty for reason of insanity. One such test in the appellee’s brief focuses on “competence to regulate conduct.” Source:Durham v. United States,214 F.2d 862 (1954). Appellee’s brief. Docket No. 11859. United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.


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