Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Differences about how the business of federal circuit and district courts should be administered--as distinguished from how their cases should be decided--down through the years have presented a persistent conflict between an ideal of national uniformity and an effort to maintain local control over administrative details. In one sense this has been a contest between reformers who have sought increased efficiency in federal judicial administration and local judges whose rallying cry was judicial independence and whose personal interest was in continuing to run things as they were accustomed within their own little domains. Occasionally patronage was involved. This did not mean, however, that the locally preferred procedures were always inefficient--sometimes they worked better in a particular district or circuit than proposed reforms would have... The story of that slow, limited advance is the theme of Professor Fish's book. The author is the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Political Science at Duke University and is along-time student of the federal judicial system. Starting with Taft in 1922, the book presents a factual account of how some measure of administrative control has been gradually achieved in the federal district and circuit courts, always over vigorous opposition, and often with only half-hearted support from the judges who did not actively oppose it.'