Home Significant Legislation The Evarts Act 1891

The Evarts Act 1891

The Evarts Act 1891

The Evarts Act of 1891 created the United States court of appeals system. It is named for Senator William M. Evarts, the main advocate for the law’s passage. It is also referred to as the Judiciary Act of 1891 and the Circuit Courts of Appeals Act. This legislation created the system of the court of appeals in the United States. With the existence of a specific system of courts of appeals, such actions, such as patent court proceedings, could be moved out of the district and circuit courts.

To implement the Evarts Act, Congress formed nine courts–each possessing one district judge and two circuit judges–to form the court of appeals system. Under this system, a court of appeals would have authority over the relevant issues found to arise in decisions made by legally subordinate courts.

After an issue, for instance arising in patent court, had been located by a court of appeals, the issue could be submitted by the presiding judge to the Supreme Court for consideration. This reform was intended in part to free up the Supreme Court to more closely focus on a fewer number of cases. The Supreme Court could choose to either review decisions as certified by a court of appeals, or make judgments on a court of appeals decisions, according to a higher court decision referred to as a writ of certiorari. 

As an exception to the power given to a court of appeals under the Evarts Act, the legislation included a clause specifying specific circumstances in which an appeal could be made first to the Supreme Court without being first heard by a court of appeals.

Presently, the number appeals courts in the United States have risen to thirteen. Patent court decisions may be challenged through a motion submitted for the consideration of one of the courts of appeals. In particular, the Federal circuit court has the power to supervise patent court appeals. 

Outside of this system of courts, there are other legal settings in the United States referred to as courts of appeals yet which do not owe their existence to the Evarts Act. These include the United States  the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and the Court of Appeals for Veteran Claims .