398 U.S. 74 (1970), 2, Chandler v. Judicial Council of the Tenth Circuit

Docket Nº:No. 2, Misc.
Citation:398 U.S. 74, 90 S.Ct. 1648, 26 L.Ed.2d 100
Party Name:Chandler v. Judicial Council of the Tenth Circuit
Case Date:June 01, 1970
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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398 U.S. 74 (1970)

90 S.Ct. 1648, 26 L.Ed.2d 100

Chandler

v.

Judicial Council of the Tenth Circuit

No. 2, Misc.

United States Supreme Court

June 1, 1970

Argued December 10, 1969

ON MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE PETITION FOR WRIT

OF PROHIBITION AND/OR MANDAMUS

Syllabus

On December 13, 1965, respondent, the Judicial Council of the Tenth Circuit, acting under 28 U.S.C. § 332, issued an order finding that petitioner was unable or unwilling to discharge his duties efficiently as a district judge for the Western District of Oklahoma (hereafter the district) and directing that he should not act in any case then or thereafter pending therein, that, until the Council's further order, no cases filed in the district were to be assigned to petitioner, and that, if all the active judges in the district could not agree upon the division of business and case assignments necessitated by the order, the Council, acting under 28 U.S.C. § 137, would make such division and assignments as it deemed proper. Petitioner filed with this Court a motion for leave to file a petition for a writ of prohibition and/or mandamus directed to the Council and sought a stay of its order. The Court denied a stay on the ground that the order was interlocutory and that petitioner would be permitted to appear at further proceedings before the Council. A hearing, scheduled for February 10, 1966, was not held, the Council having been advised that no district judge, including petitioner, desired a hearing. On February 4 the Council, acting under §§ 137 and 332, issued an order, which superseded its previous orders dealing with petitioner, authorizing petitioner to sit on cases assigned to him before December 28, 1965, and assigning to other judges of the district cases filed thereafter. On September 1, 1967, those judges and petitioner (who had previously expressed disagreement with the February 4 Order and the Council's "illegal effort" to create a situation in which it could assign cases under 28 U.S.C. § 137) advised the Council that "the current order for the division of business in this district is agreeable under the circumstances." The Council, which had considered modifying the February 4, 1966, Order in view of the small number of cases petitioner had then pending, thereupon let the February 4 Order stand. Petitioner contends that the Council's orders relating to the assignment of cases in

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the district impose unlawful conditions on the exercise of his constitutional powers as a judge and usurp the impeachment powers vested in Congress. He claims that his acquiescence in the division of the business of the district resulted from "duress" of the December 13 Order, and that it was also a matter of "strategy" to avoid the appearance of the absence of agreement among the district judges as to a division of work which would enable the Council to act under § 137. The Council contends, inter alia, that its action was solely administrative, and cannot be reviewed as an original proceeding by this Court.

Held: Whether or not the Council's action is reviewable here, petitioner, in the present posture of this case, is not entitled to the extraordinary remedy that he seeks, since, after expressly acquiescing in the division of business in the district, following revocation of the Order of December 13 1965, by the Order of February 4, 1966, he has not sought relief either from the Council or other tribunal, and such relief may yet be open to him. Pp. 84-89.

Motion denied.

BURGER, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner, a United States District Judge, filed a motion for leave to file a petition for a writ of mandamus or alternatively a writ of prohibition addressed to the Judicial Council of the Tenth Circuit. His petition seeks resolution of questions of first impression concerning, inter

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alia, the scope and constitutionality of the powers of the Judicial Councils under 28 U.S.C. §§ 137 and 332.1 The Judicial Council of each federal circuit is, under the present statute, composed of the active circuit judges of the circuit. Petitioner has asked this Court to issue an order under the All Writs Act2 telling the Council to "cease acting [in] violation of its powers and in violation of Judge Chandler's rights [90 S.Ct. 1650] as a federal judge and an American

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citizen." The background facts are of some importance.

1

On December 13, 1965, the Judicial Council of the Tenth Circuit convened in special session3 and adopted an order which reflected a long history of controversy between petitioner and the Council concerning the conduct of the work of the District Court assigned to petitioner. The Order of December 13 purported to issue under the authority of 28 U.S.C. § 332, supra, n. 1, and recited that, during

the past four years, the Judicial Council at many meetings has discussed and considered the business of the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma and has done so with particular regard to the effect thereon of the attitude and conduct of Judge Chandler, who, as the Chief Judge of that District, is primarily responsible for the administration of such business. . . .

The Order noted that, during that period, petitioner had been a party defendant in both civil and criminal litigation, as well as the subject of two applications to disqualify him in litigation in which on challenge petitioner had refused to disqualify himself.4 The Order continued with a finding that

Judge Chandler is presently unable, or unwilling, to discharge efficiently the duties of his office; that

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a change must be made in the division of business and the assignment of cases in the Western District of Oklahoma; and that the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma requires the orders herein made.

Expressly invoking the powers of the Judicial Council under 28 U.S.C. § 332, supra, n. 1, the Order directed that

until the further order of the Judicial Council, the Honorable Stephen S. Chandler shall take no action whatsoever in any case or proceeding now or hereafter pending in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma; that all cases and proceedings now assigned to or pending before him shall be reassigned to and among the other judges of said court; and that, until the further order of the Judicial Council, no cases or proceedings filed or instituted in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma shall be assigned to him for any action whatsoever.

It is further ORDERED that, in the event the active judges of the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, including Judge Chandler, cannot agree among themselves upon the division of business and assignment of cases made necessary by this order, the Judicial [90 S.Ct. 1651] Council, upon such disagreement being brought to its attention, will act under 28 U.S.C. § 137 and make such division and assignment as it deems proper.

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Copies of the above Order were filed in the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma on December 27 and 28, respectively. Another copy was served on Judge Chandler by a U.S. Marshal.

On January 6, 1966, as previously noted, Judge Chandler filed with this Court his motion for leave to file a petition for a writ of prohibition and/or mandamus directed to the Judicial Council. He also sought a stay of its Order. The Solicitor General, appearing on behalf of the Judicial Council, asked this Court to deny the stay application on the Council's representation that the Order of December 13 was only temporary pending prompt further inquiry into Judge Chandler's administration of the business of his court. The stay was denied on January 21, 1966, on the ground that the Order was

entirely interlocutory in character pending prompt further proceedings . . . , and that, at such proceedings, Judge Chandler will be permitted to appear before the Council, with counsel. . . .

382 U.S. 1003.

On January 24, 1966, Judge Chandler addressed a letter to his fellow district judges indicating that he objected to the removal and reassignment of cases previously assigned and pending before him on December 28, 1965, but that he was not in disagreement with them as to the assignment of all new cases to judges other than himself. Judge Chandler asserted continuing judicial authority, however, over the cases pending before him as of December 28. The following day, the judges of the Western District of Oklahoma advised the Judicial Council that all judges of that District had agreed on the division of new business filed in that court, but that they could not agree on the assignment to other judges of cases then pending before Judge Chandler.

On January 27, 1966, the Judicial Council again convened in special session and ordered a hearing on February

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10, 1966, in Oklahoma City at which Judge Chandler was invited to appear, with counsel if he desired. However, by February 4, when the Council met again, it had been advised that no judge of the Western District, including Judge Chandler, desired to be heard pursuant to the order for hearing. Accordingly, no hearing took place.

At this same meeting on February 4, 1966, the Council concluded that there was a disagreement among the District Judges of the Western District as to the division of business; it reached this conclusion on the basis of the disagreement between Judge Chandler and the other District Judges as to the reassignment of cases previously assigned to Judge Chandler as of December 28, 1965. The Council...

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