a timeline of the
COURT OF APPEALS
The United States Courts are often called the guardians of
the Constitution because their rulings protect rights and
liberties guaranteed by the nation’s supreme law. The
Founders considered an independent federal judiciary
essential to ensure fairness and equal justice for all
American citizens. The courts do not make laws but,
through fair and impartial judgments, determine facts and
interpret the law to resolve legal differences and disputes.
The nation’s 94 judicial districts are organized into 12 regional circuits, each of which has a court of appeals. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit hears appeals from the district courts located within the vast Ninth Circuit as well as appeals from certain federal administrative agencies. The court reviews
the decisions and records of proceedings from the district courts. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is one step below the United States Supreme Court. The Ninth Circuit’s history reflects the history of America’s development as a nation and its westward movement.
UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
The United States Constitution is ratified by enough states to become the “law of the land.” Article Three establishes the third, the judicial, branch of the new government.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.
The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority; to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls; to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction; to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party; to Controversies between two or more States; between a State and Citizens of another State; between Citizens of different States; between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.
In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.
The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.
See more information on the Documents of American History page.
JUDICIARY ACT OF 1789
The generality of Article III of the Constitution raises questions that the first Congress addresses in 1789. Congress decides that it can regulate the jurisdiction of all federal courts and, in the Judiciary Act of 1789, establishes a limited jurisdiction for the district and circuit courts, gives the Supreme Court the original jurisdiction provided for in the Constitution, and grants the Court appellate jurisdiction in cases from the federal circuit courts and from the state courts where those courts rulings had rejected federal claims. Although opinions about what constitutes the proper balance of federal and state concerns vary no less today than they did two centuries ago, the fact that today’s federal court system closely resembles the one created in 1789 suggests that the First Congress performed its job admirably. National Archives
See more information on the Documents of American History page.
UNITED STATES CORPS OF DISCOVERY
Led by Army Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, the United States Corps of Discovery enters the Oregon Country along the Columbia River. The expedition seeks to learn about the American West—its peoples, landscape, and resources —and to explore possible routes of trade between the East Coast and the Orient. Further, the Corps attempts to legitimize American claims to the land that now makes up the Ninth Circuit. The journals kept by the men document much of what they saw on their two-and-a-half-year journey and become one of the nation’s literary treasures and a comprehensive description of early 19th-century Oregon. Statue of Captain William Clark by Frederick Ruckstuhl OrHi 104304 Statue of Captain Meriwether Lewis by Charles Lopez OrHi 104303
HUDSON’S BAY COMPANY
By the 1820s it’s not the Americans, but the British who control the Oregon Country. In particular, the great international mercantile enterprise Hudson’s Bay Company dominates everything from taking in furs and other products of the land to meting out justice. The company’s local Chief Factor Dr. John McLoughlin rules the vast region with an iron hand. Legal and judicial actions follow British custom. Dr. John McLoughlin OrHi 248
Joe Meek, settles in Oregon after a career in the Rocky Mountain fur trade. Meek plays a leading role in establishing early American government in the Oregon Country, wresting control from the British. He goes on to serve as a census taker, tax collector, legislator and Oregon’s first federal marshal, helping lay down the foundation for the administration of justice. OrHi 10126
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Pioneers from the eastern and midwestern states begin to make their way west over the Oregon Trail, bringing with them their laws and judicial codes. Nearly all of Oregon’s and the Ninth Circuit’s first lawyers and judges arrive via wagon train. Aaron Burr drawing, OrHi 5229
Boston lawyer Asa Lovejoy and Portland, Maine, merchant Francis Pettygrove plat a town site on the Willamette River, 10 miles upstream from its confluence with the Columbia. In 1845, with the toss of a penny, they give the name Portland rather than Boston to their new town. OrHi 49537
TERRITORY OF OREGON
On August 14, 1848, President James Polk signs legislation creating the Territory of Oregon and appoints three judges to the territorial court. Only Chief Justice William Bryant accepts the appointment, and in April of the following year the territorial court—Oregon’s first federally mandated tribunal—replaces the provisional government’s court. The territorial judges, however, often fail to hold court, impeding the court’s work and spurring a group of Portland lawyers to send a letter of complaint to the president.
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HOLMES v. FORD
The Territorial Supreme Court of Oregon decides Holmes v. Ford, Oregon City Statesman. Chief Justice George Williams declares that slavery cannot exist in the territory absent some affirmative legislative act establishing it.
Judge Deady Appointed
Oregon achieves statehood on February 14, 1859, and President James Buchanan appoints Matthew Paul Deady as United States District Judge.Author of the Oregon constitution—the new state’s early statutes and codes—and a member of the first state supreme court, Judge Deady dominates the Oregon legal landscape from the 1850s until his death in 1893. Judicial colleagues from United States Supreme Court justices to state judges praise his learning and ability. A prolific diarist, founder of the Multnomah Public Library, and a theater and operagoer, Deady is one of Portland’s most influential and powerful citizens. Judge Matthew Deady OrHi 9506
Stephen Field, Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court, is appointed to the United States Supreme Court. Field enjoys a long tenure on the Court serving as the circuit justice for the Ninth Circuit and maintains a close friendship with District Judge Matthew P. Deady, with whom he shares a judicial philosophy.
PIONEER COURTHOUSE DESIGN
Supervising Architect of the Treasury Department Alfred Mullett begins work on the architectural concept for the Portland Post Office, Customs, and Courthouse, soon to be named the Pioneer Courthouse. Mullett completes the architectural work in 1868, a year before the federal government purchases the block on which the building will be built.
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Construction commences on the Pioneer Courthouse as the Pacific Northwest’s principal federal office building. Immediately complaints begin about its distance from the downtown, which lies several blocks to the east and north. Portlanders, however, soon begin to take pride in the stately Italianate structure rising in what will before long become the heart of the city. OrHi 26514
Lorenzo Sawyer is appointed circuit judge for the Ninth Circuit.
1873 & 1875
LAND DISPUTE CASES LAMB v. DAVENPORT and STARK v. STARR
Lamb v. Davenport, 85 U.S. 307, and Stark v. Starr, 94 U.S. 477, two Deady-era land-dispute cases, are decided by the Supreme Court and help settle hundreds of Donation Act land claims in and around Portland. OrHi 25718
The Pioneer Courthouse is completed at a cost of $611,165. United States District Court Judge Matthew P. Deady moves into his spacious chambers and commences trials in the formal second-floor courtroom. With Supreme Court Justice Stephen Field and Circuit Judge Lorenzo Sawyer, Deady occasionally sits as a circuit judge, hearing appeals from district courts on the West Coast. OrHi 26593
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PENNOYER v. NEFF
United States Supreme Court decides Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714. Originating in District Judge Matthew P. Deady’s court, the case originates from a dispute over the ownership and distribution of land belonging to a man (Neff) who was out-of-state and not personally notified of a case pending against him. The Supreme Court holds that the court in Oregon did not have sufficient jurisdiction over Neff, because he was not physically present here. The case establishes early and important limitations on personal jurisdiction. It remains, arguably, the most famous case to come out of Oregon. Presiding
Judge Matthew Deady OrHi 77105
PRESIDENT ULYSSES S. GRANT
Former President Ulysses S. Grant, only one year out of office, visits Portland and, after touring the Pioneer Courthouse, addresses the assembled citizens and children of the city from the Sixth Avenue side of the building. OrHi 24676
PRESIDENT RUTHERFORD B. HAYES
President Rutherford B. Hayes visits the Pioneer Courthouse and climbs the stairs to the cupola to view what was described as “the magnificent view of the city, the river, and the mountains beyond.”
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Railroad surveys in Oregon begin in the 1850s, but only in 1883 is Portland connected to the transcontinental rail system. Federal court dockets throughout the West become filled with cases involving railroad companies and their lands, rates, disputes among themselves and with customers, states, and the federal government itself. OrHi 50082
PRESIDENT BENJAMIN HARRISON
President Benjamin Harrison, on a visit to Portland, views a parade in his honor from the grounds of the Pioneer Courthouse. With him is the United States Postmaster General John Wanamaker, who inspects the post office quarters within the building and notes that more space is needed, initiating the 10-year effort to enlarge the Pioneer Courthouse.
JUDICIARY ACT OF 1891
Congress passes the Judiciary Act of 1891, also known as the Evarts Act after its author Senator William Evarts, which creates the United States Courts of Appeals. Appeals from the federal district courts are now reassigned from the old circuit courts to these new appellate courts, except for certain cases that can be appealed directly to the Supreme Court.
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, newly created by the Evarts Act, holds its inaugural session on June 16, 1891, in the Appraisers’ Building in San Francisco. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Field presides with Circuit Judge Lorenzo Sawyer in attendance. To complete the requisite three-judge panel, Justice Field announces that Oregon District Court Judge Matthew P. Deady will sit on the appellate bench by designation.
President Benjamin Harrison appoints Oregonian William Ball Gilbert to the newly created Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the first Oregon judge to serve on this court. Born and raised in Virginia, William Ball Gilbert is a descendant of the illustrious Colonel William Ball, who emigrated from England in 1650 and was the grandfather of George Washington’s mother, Mary Ball. Judge Gilbert is the ranking judge in the Ninth Circuit for nearly 35 years and his opinions span almost 300 volumes of the Federal Reporter. Judge Gilbert’s opinions on many cases during his decades on the court contribute significantly to the development of Ninth Circuit law. Left to right, Judges Morrow, Gilbert, and Ross
The prospect for gold, silver, and other mineral resources lures thousands of miners to Oregon and other states in the growing Ninth Circuit. Disputes over mining claims, cases involving accidents and injuries, and efforts to recoup losses from damage to land and water fill the Circuit’s trial and appellate courts’ dockets. OrHi 13222
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EXTENSION OF PIONEER COURTHOUSE
Congress approves funds for an extension of Pioneer Courthouse, and the Treasury Department authorizes construction of two new wings on the west facade to accommodate the post office’s need for additional space. Completed by 1905, these additions are built of the same type of stone (sandstone), though from a different quarry. OrHi 26583
PRESIDENT THEODORE ROOSEVELT
President Theodore Roosevelt visits Portland to help launch the effort to hold a world’s fair in Portland in 1905. The president stays at the Portland Hotel, across Sixth Avenue from the courthouse, and gives a speech with the audience spreading across the street to the grounds of the Pioneer Courthouse. OrHi 105549
NINTH CIRCUIT’S OWN FIRST BUILDING
The Ninth Circuit’s own first building, shared with the post office, opens at Seventh and Mission Streets in San Francisco and is immediately considered one of the finest architectural structures in the West. Sustaining only light damage from the 1906 earthquake and fire, it becomes a central message place for survivors and visitors.
TIMBER AND LAND FRAUD
The scramble for resources—timber, mineral, grazing land—in the late 19th and early 20th centuries puts public and private interests on a collision course. Numerous trials for timber and land fraud are held in the Pioneer Courthouse and other courthouses throughout the Ninth Circuit. By 1906 and, in part, because of the rampant fraud being perpetrated on public lands, President Theodore Roosevelt creates 10 new forest reserves and moves the conservation ethic onto the American agenda.
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PRESIDENT WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT
President William Howard Taft visits Portland and stops at the Pioneer Courthouse on his parade up Morrison Street.
BUILDINGS RISE AROUND
In the 20 years between 1892 and 1912, a collection of larger, yet architecturally distinct, buildings rise around Pioneer Courthouse. The courthouse now sits in a canyon of terra cotta buildings that, while manifesting the popular City Beautiful movement of this time, hide the once-prominent landmark and cut it off from its famed views of the river, mountains, and the surrounding cityscape. OrHi 4906
PIERCE v. SOCIETY OF SISTERS
Through initiative and legislation following a campaign spearheaded by Ku Klux Klan leader Fred Louis Gifford, Oregonians in 1922 pass the "Compulsory School Bill," an anti-Catholic effort toward abolishing parochial schools. The Society of Sisters orphanage challenges the school bill in federal court. The Ninth Circuit finds that Oregon students have a constitutional right to attend parochial schools protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. In Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925), the Supreme Court affirms the Ninth Circuit’s decision, marking a turning point in defining the "Liberty Clause" of the Fourteenth Amendment. Nearly 50 years later, the Court, citing Pierce, upholds the right of Amish parents to withdraw their children from public school after the eighth grade. Fred Louis Gifford OrHi 87769, OrHi 17470
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Wallace McCamant, a former associate justice on the Oregon Supreme Court, is appointed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by President Calvin Coolidge during the Senate’s recess. His appointment is temporary, pending Senate confirmation. Upon returning from its recess, the Senate rejects McCamant’s nomination, ending his brief judicial career as the only circuit judge in the country’s history to suffer rejection by the Senate after serving under a recess appointment.
BERT E. HANEY
Oregon attorney and member of the United States Shipping Board Bert E. Haney is appointed to the Court of Appeals by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
DeJONG v. OREGON
The United States Supreme Court hands down a decision in DeJonge v. Oregon, 299 U.S. 353, holding that Dirk DeJonge, who spoke at a public meeting called by the Communist Party, could not be prosecuted for speaking at an event where no laws had been broken and no one was incited to break the law. DeJonge is represented by attorney Gus J. Solomon, who is later (1949) appointed United States district judge by President Harry S. Truman.
COURTHOUSE DEMOLITION AUTHORIZED
A bill authorizing the demolition of Pioneer Courthouse passes both houses of Congress and is signed by the president. With the Great Depression still lingering and the nation beginning to support the Allied war effort in Europe, funds for the work are never appropriated. Pioneer Courthouse remains standing.
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With America’s entry into World War II and the government’s need for space to house an expanding military workforce, Pioneer Courthouse is reactivated. The building becomes Portland’s "Victory Center," where morale-boosting shows take place and the government sells war bonds. OrHi 123456
JAPANESE AMERICAN EXCLUSION CASES
The treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II is one of the darker chapters in the nation’s 20th-century history, for it is during the war that the Japanese exclusion cases arise. The federal government requires that Japanese Americans observe special curfews and report to "relocation centers," internment camps located throughout the western states. These requirements lead to several court challenges, which the Ninth Circuit sends directly to the Supreme Court. In such cases as Yasui v. United States 320 U.S. 115, and Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. 81, 85, the Court rules that the federal government may impose restrictions on Japanese-American citizens. Strong feelings about the exclusion orders continue long after the war: the nation eventually apologizes and Portland dedicates a riverfront garden memorializing this painful episode. OrHi 44613,
Although the impetus for water control begins with the enactment of the Reclamation Act of 1902, before the New Deal only a few projects are launched in the Ninth Circuit. The great water projects of the 1930s and 1940s—Bonneville Dam, Grand Coulee Dam, the Central Valley Project—change the American West. The complexity of these undertakings—involving rivers, dams, electricity, irrigation, Indian fishing rights and fisheries management, and flood control—leads to legal disputes that require western federal courts’ attention. The Supreme Court’s ability to review only a small number of cases leaves the Ninth Circuit effectively as the court of last resort in the many water-related cases that are filed. OrHi 14804 and OrHi 2609, right
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JAMES ALGER FEE
Following a distinguished, 23-year career as a United States District Judge in Oregon, James Alger Fee is appointed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1954 by President Dwight Eisenhower.
PIONEER COURTHOUSE SEEKS NATIONAL HISTORIC MONUMENT STATUS
At the request of the Portland City Council, Oregon Congresswoman Edith Green, working with Oregon Senators Wayne Morse and Richard Neuberger, introduces federal legislation seeking Pioneer Courthouse’s preservation as a national monument. Congresswoman Green and Oregon Historical Society Director Thomas Vaughan advocate for the building’s preservation. Private efforts by local businesses to demolish the courthouse to build a parking lot are resisted and, by the end of the year, the Courthouse is registered as a National Top Photo: Historic Landmark Morse, Green, and Neuberger OrHi37447 Bottom Photo: Green and Vaughn OrHi 35545
CHIEF JUDGE RICHARD CHAMBERS
Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Richard Chambers persuades the court to move its Oregon headquarters into the Pioneer Courthouse, if the building is restored. Congresswoman Edith Green secures an appropriation for the work, which begins in 1971. Oregon Senator Mark O. Hatfield, who will soon make Pioneer Courthouse the place for his in-state office, adds his own efforts to preserving the building.
JOHN E. KILKENNY
With an appointment by President Richard Nixon, Oregon District Court Judge John F. Kilkenny is promoted to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Kilkenny applies his love of Oregon’s landscape and deep interest in historic preservation toward restoring Pioneer Courthouse and maintains his residence in Portland rather than in the Circuit’s headquarters of San Francisco.
ALFRED T. GOODWIN
President Nixon promotes Oregon District Court Judge and former Oregon Supreme Court Justice Alfred T. Goodwin to the Court of Appeals. Sharing a strong sense of Oregon history with his colleague Judge Kilkenny, Judge Goodwin adds his own energies to Pioneer Courthouse’s restoration.
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RESTORATION OF PIONEER COURTHOUSE
Portland architect George McMath, of Allen, McMath, Hawkins and Associates, oversees the restoration of Pioneer Courthouse. The building is rededicated on May 1, 1973, and houses the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the federal bankruptcy court. The restoration includes repairs to the exterior walls, using epoxy mixed with ground stone from the original quarry to replicate the original stonework. The chimneys are stabilized and all surfaces are sealed and waterproofed. The interior of the building also is fully rehabilitated with fixtures matching the original 1875 structure and installation of new air conditioning, ventilation, and partial sprinkler systems. Judges Chambers and Kilkenny gather furniture from across the country to furnish the courtroom and other public spaces: bench lamps from Chicago; public benches from St. Paul, Minnesota; counsel tables from Butte, Montana. Oregonians donate additional historical articles. OrHi 104266 (plan) and 9353
INDIAN FISHING RIGHTS
Northwest Indian tribes and the federal government share a long and troubled history relating to Indian fishing rights, a story that continues to be written in the Ninth Circuit. District Judges Robert Belloni (Sohappy v. Smith, 302 F. Supp. 899 [D. Or. 1969]) and George Boldt (United States v. Washington, 384 F. Supp. 312 [W.D. Wash. 1974]) reaffirm the federal government’s guarantee to northwest Indians the right to fish "at all usual and accustomed places." The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is asked to balance fishing rights with environmental and other concerns in a series of cases that continues today. OrHi 4463
OTTO R. SKOPIL, JR.
President Jimmy Carter promotes Oregon District Court Judge Otto R. Skopil, Jr., to the Court of Appeals. Judge Skopil is recognized for his many contributions to legal education and, particularly, the work of magistrates within the federal judiciary.
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DIARMUID F. O’SCANNLAIN
A former Oregon Public Utility Commissioner and Director of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain is appointed to the Court of Appeals by President Ronald Reagan. With concerns growing over Pioneer Courthouse’s ability to withstand earthquakes, Judge O’Scannlain takes the lead to rehabilitate the building and strengthen its seismic infrastructure, an effort that is rewarded with the building’s upgrade and rehabilitation in 2005.
President Reagan promotes Oregon District Court Judge Edward Leavy to the Court of Appeals. Judge Leavy’s service on the court is a continuation of a long judicial career, beginning with his appointment to the state bench at the age of 27.
Beginning in the early 1970s, the northern spotted owl is considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act. A series of cases move up and down the federal district and appeals courts within the Ninth Circuit, becoming Seattle Audubon Society v. Evans, 952 F.2d 297 (9th Cir. 1991). The battle between forest-lands conservationists and the Pacific Northwest timber industry affects the region’s economy, politics, and many communities’ social life. The Pioneer Courthouse is host to many legal disputes and debates surrounding timber and the environment that continue today. from The Birds of North America, 1888
JUSTICE SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR
United States Supreme Court Associate Justice O’Connor visits Pioneer Courthouse as part of her duties as circuit justice. Attended by Ninth Circuit Judges Diarmuid O’Scannlain and Edward Leavy, Justice O’Connor meets with law clerks and other court staff. OrHi 832.photo80-0
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DEATH WITH DIGNITY
In a significant death-with-dignity case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issues a decision in Compassion in Dying v. Washington, 85 F.3d 1440 (9th Cir. 1996) to which Oregon Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain dissents. The United States Supreme Court unanimously reverses the Circuit, basing its decision on Judge O’Scannlain’s dissent.
President Bill Clinton nominates Oregon Supreme Court Justice Susan Graber to the Court of Appeals and she is confirmed as the state’s first female judge on the court. Judge Graber assists with the 2005 rehabilitation of the Pioneer Courthouse.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
In June, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals holds 2‚Äö√Ñ√¨1 that the phrase “under God,” inserted into the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954 by an act of Congress, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Judge Alfred Goodwin writes the majority opinion. The decision elicits strong criticism from around the country and across the political spectrum. A call for rehearing before the Ninth Circuit en banc court fails. In a subsequent hearing, Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain dissents from the order rejecting en banc rehearing and is joined by five colleagues.
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