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Abstract

Congress’ Evarts Act, signed into law in 1891, created a new Article III federal court designed almost exclusively to sit as an intermediate appellate court in between the federal trial courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. Congress created the new Evarts Act appellate courts to relieve pressure on the Supreme Court’s growing workload and to create a less arbitrary system of appeals for litigants in the federal trial courts. These twin goals of reducing the Supreme Court’s workload and establishing a meaningful right of appeal produced a set of circuit courts of appeals with a distinctively constrained new role. This, then, is the fate of intermediate Article III courts in our current federal system. The courts of appeals are squeezed from both sides, but the most glaring constraints come from on high, not from below. Still, the federal courts of appeals aim to make a highly constrained practice the best it can be.

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