PALMORE V. UNITED STATES, 411 U. S. 389 (1973)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Palmore v. United States, 411 U.S. 389 (1973)

Palmore v. United States

No. 72-11

Argued February 21, 1973

Decided April 24, 1973

411 U.S. 389


Palmore was convicted of a felony in violation of the District of Columbia Code by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The District of Columbia Court of Appeals, rejecting Palmore's contention that he was entitled to be tried by an Art. III judge with lifetime tenure and salary protection, affirmed, concluding that, under the plenary power to legislate for the District of Columbia conferred by Art. I, § 8, cl. 17, of the Constitution, Congress had

"constitutional power to proscribe certain criminal conduct only in the District, and to select the appropriate court, whether it is created by virtue of article III or article I, to hear and determine . . . particular criminal cases within the District."

Palmore seeks to invoke this Court's appellate jurisdiction on the basis of 28 U.S.C. § 1257(2), which provides for an appeal to this Court from a final judgment upholding the validity of "a statute of any state" against a claim that it is repugnant to the Constitution.


1. The District of Columbia Code is not a state statute for purposes of § 1257(2), and the lower court's upholding of the federal statute is therefore not reviewable by appeal, but by certiorari. Pp. 411 U. S. 394-397.

2. Not every judicial proceeding that implicates a charge, claim, or defense based on an Act of Congress or a law made under its authority must be presided over by an Art. III judge. Pp. 411 U. S. 397-410.

(a) The jurisdictional grant respecting "such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish" requires neither that only Art. III courts hear and decide cases within the judicial power of the United States nor that each inferior court be invested with all the jurisdiction flowing from Art. III, and federal criminal laws have been enforced by state, territorial, and military courts and judges who did not enjoy the Art. III protections. Pp. 411 U. S. 397-404.

(b) The strictly local court system consisting of the Superior Court and the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia was

Page 411 U. S. 390

created by the District of Columbia Court Reform and Criminal Procedure Act of 1970 pursuant to Congress' plenary Art. I power to legislate for the District of Columbia, and was intended to relieve the Art. III courts of the burden of local civil and criminal litigation. O'Donoghue v. United States, 289 U. S. 516, distinguished. Pp. 411 U. S. 405-407.

Appeal dismissed and certiorari granted in part; 290 A.2d 573, affirmed.

WHITE, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J.,and BRENNAN, STEWART, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 411 U. S. 410.

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