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One Supreme CourtSupremacy, Inferiority, and the Judicial Department of the United States$
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James E. Pfander

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195340334

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195340334.001.0001

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The Supreme Court’s Power to Supervise Inferior Federal Courts

The Supreme Court’s Power to Supervise Inferior Federal Courts

(p.59) 4 The Supreme Court’s Power to Supervise Inferior Federal Courts
One Supreme Court


Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the development of the relationship between the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts. Although the Court has long exercised supervisory power over the lower federal courts, its authority to do so today rests on a relatively fragile statute, the All Writs Act. It traces the origins of the All Writs authority of the Supreme Court, showing that it derives from grants of supervisory authority that Congress first conferred on the Court in the Judiciary Act of 1789. Although intervening developments, notably the Supreme Court's decision in Marbury v. Madison, have tended to obscure the true nature of the supervisory power, the chapter shows that the Court's power to oversee the lower courts does not depend on any alternative statutory source of appellate jurisdiction. Restrictions on the Court's appellate jurisdiction, adopted under the authority of the Exceptions and Regulations Clause, leave the supervisory powers intact.

Keywords:   Supreme Court, All Writs Act, supervisory powers, federal courts, Marbury v. Madison

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