Vanderbilt Law Review


Judith Resnik

First Page



A first enterprise in understanding and reframing Federal Courts jurisprudence is to locate, descriptively, "the Federal Courts." This activity-identifying the topic-may seem too obvious for comment, but I hope to show its utility. One must start with a bit of history, going back to the "beginning" of this body of jurisprudence. The relevant date is 1928, when Felix Frankfurter and James Landis, who began this conversation, published their book, The Business of the Supreme Court: A Study in the Federal Judicial System. Three years later, in 1931, Felix Frankfurter, then joined by Wilber G. Katz (and later by Harry Shulman), published accompanying teaching materials, Cases and Other Authorities on Federal Jurisdiction and Procedure. That book argued for a place in the curriculum for what was then a new course, and one that was (as the authors put it) distinct from "practice." Frankfurter and his colleagues wanted a course appropriate to the "university law school." Most of the topics they picked and the organization used in 1931 are the very categories typically addressed in Federal Courts courses today: jurisdictional questions such as the meaning of "case" and "controversy"; the original and appellate jurisdiction of the United States Supreme Court; the power of federal courts to make federal common law; the relationship be- tween the state and federal courts; habeas corpus.