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Inherent and Ancillary Powers of the Federal Courts

The federal courts have inherent or incidental powers that are necessary to the exercise of all other powers of the courts. Included in these powers is the power to make rules concerning the operation of the courts and to sanction those who are in violation of those rules.

Article III, Section 1 of the United States Constitution states:

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 Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

United States Library of Congress, The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation

Among the incidental powers of courts is that of making all necessary rules governing their process and practice and for the orderly conduct of their business.1 However, this power too is derived from the statutes and cannot go beyond them. The landmark case is Wayman v. Southard,2 which sustained the validity of the Process Acts of 1789 and 1792 as a valid exercise of authority under the necessary and proper clause. Although Chief Justice Marshall regarded the rule-making power as essentially legislative in nature, he ruled that Congress could delegate to the courts the power to vary minor regulations in the outlines marked out by the statute. Fifty-seven years later, in Fink v. O'Neil,3 in which the United States sought to enforce by summary process the payment of a debt, the Supreme Court ruled that under the process acts the law of Wisconsin was the law of the United States, and hence the government was required to bring a suit, obtain a judgment, and cause execution to issue. Justice Matthews for a unanimous Court declared that the courts have "no inherent authority to take any one of these steps, except as it may have been conferred by the legislative department; for they can exercise no jurisdiction, except as the law confers and limits it."4 Conceding, in 1934, the limited competence of legislative bodies to establish a comprehensive system of court procedure, and acknowledging the inherent power of courts to regulate the conduct of their business, Congress authorized the Supreme Court to prescribe rules for the lower federal courts not inconsistent with the Constitution and statutes.5 Their operation being restricted, in conformity with the proviso attached to the congressional authorization, to matters of pleading and practice, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure thus judicially promulgated neither affect the substantive rights of litigants6 nor alter the jurisdiction7 of federal courts and the venue of actions therein8 and, thus circumscribed, have been upheld as valid.

Limitations to the Rule-Making Power

The principal function of court rules is that of regulating the practice of courts as regards forms, the operation and effect of process, and the mode and time of proceedings. However, rules are sometimes employed to state in convenient form principles of substantive law previously established by statutes or decisions. But no such rule "can enlarge or restrict jurisdiction. Nor can a rule abrogate or modify the substantive law." This rule is applicable equally to courts of law, equity, and admiralty, to rules prescribed by the Supreme Court for the guidance of lower courts, and to rules "which lower courts make for their own guidance under authority conferred."9 As incident to the judicial power, courts of the United States possess inherent authority to supervise the conduct of their officers, parties, witnesses, counsel, and jurors by self-preserving rules for the protection of the rights of litigants and the orderly administration of justice.10

The courts of the United States possess inherent equitable powers over their process to prevent abuse, oppression, and injustice, and to protect their jurisdiction and officers in the protection of property in the custody of law.11 Such powers are said to be essential to and inherent in the organization of courts of justice.12 While the Court has not "precisely delineated the outer boundaries" of a federal court's inherent powers to manage its own internal affairs, the Court has recognized two limits on the exercise of such authority.13 First, a court, in exercising its inherent powers over its own processes, must act reasonably in response to a specific problem or issue "confronting the court's fair administration of justice."14 Second, any exercise of an inherent power cannot conflict with any express grant of or limitation on the district court's power as contained in a statute or rule, such as the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.15 In applying these two standards, the Court has recognized that a district court, as an exercise of its inherent powers, can in limited circumstances rescind an order to discharge a jury and recall that jury in a civil case.16 The Supreme Court has also acknowledged that federal courts possess the inherent power to control other aspects of regulating internal court proceedings, including having the inherent power to (1) hear a motion in limine;17 (2) dismiss a case for the convenience of the parties or witnesses because of the availability of an alternative forum;18 and (3) stay proceedings pending the resolution of parallel actions in other courts.19 The courts of the United States also possess inherent power to amend their records, correct the errors of the clerk or other court officers, and to rectify defects or omissions in their records even after the lapse of a term, subject, however, to the qualification that the power to amend records conveys no power to create a record or re-create one of which no evidence exists.20 Nonetheless, while the exercise of an inherent power can, at times, allow for departures from even long-established, judicially crafted common law rules,21 courts are not "generally free to discover new inherent powers that are contrary to civil practice as recognized in the common laws."22

Contempt and Sanctions

Crucial to an understanding of the history of the law governing the courts' powers of contempt is an awareness of the various kinds of contempt. With a few notable exceptions,23 the Court has consistently distinguished between criminal and civil contempt, the former being a vindication of the authority of the courts and latter being the preservation and enforcement of the rights of the parties. A civil contempt has been traditionally viewed as the refusal of a person in a civil case to obey a mandatory order. It is incomplete in nature, may be purged by obedience to the court order, and does not involve a sentence for a definite period of time. The classic criminal contempt is one where the act of contempt has been completed, punishment is imposed to vindicate the authority of the court, and a person cannot by subsequent action purge himself of such contempt.24

The issue of whether a certain contempt is civil or criminal can be of great importance. For instance, criminal contempt, unlike civil contempt, implicates procedural rights attendant to prosecutions.25 Or, in Ex parte Grossman,26 while holding that the President may pardon a criminal contempt, Chief Justice Taft noted in dicta that such pardon power did not extend to civil contempt. Notwithstanding the importance of distinguishing between the two, there have been instances where defendants have been charged with both civil and criminal contempt for the same act.27

Long-standing doctrine regarding how courts should distinguish between civil and criminal contempt remains influential. In Shillitani v. United States,28 defendants were sentenced by their respective District Courts to two years imprisonment for contempt of court, but the sentences contained a purge clause providing for the unconditional release of the contemnors upon agreeing to testify before a grand jury. On appeal, the Supreme Court held that the defendants were in civil contempt, notwithstanding their sentence for a definite period of time, on the grounds that the test for determining whether the contempt is civil or criminal is what the court primarily seeks to accomplish by imposing sentence.29 Here, the purpose was to obtain answers to the questions for the grand jury, and the court provided for the defendants' release upon compliance; whereas, "a criminal contempt proceeding would be characterized by the imposition of an unconditional sentence for punishment or deterence."30

In International Union, UMW v. Bagwell,31 however, the Court formulated a new test for drawing the distinction between civil and criminal contempt in certain cases. Henceforth, the imposition of non-compensatory contempt fines for the violation of any complex injunction will require criminal proceedings. This case, as have so many, involved the imposition of large fines (here, $52 million) upon a union in a strike situation for violations of an elaborate court injunction restraining union activity during the strike. The Court was vague with regard to the standards for determining when a court order is "complex" and thus requires the protection of criminal proceedings.32

The Court has also recognized a second, but more subtle distinction between types of contempt, and that is the difference between direct and indirect contempt. Direct contempt results when the contumacious act is committed "in the presence of the Court or so near thereto as to obstruct the administration of justice,"33 while indirect contempt is behavior that the Court did not itself witness.34 The nature of the contumacious act, i.e., whether it is direct or indirect, is important because it determines the appropriate procedure for charging the contemnor. As will be seen in the following discussion, the history of the contempt powers of the American judiciary is marked by two trends: a shrinking of the court's power to punish a person summarily and a multiplying of the due process requirements that must otherwise be met when finding an individual to be in contempt.35

The Judiciary Act of 1789

The summary power of the courts of the United States to punish contempts of their authority had its origin in the law and practice of England where disobedience of court orders was regarded as contempt of the King himself and attachment was a prerogative process derived from presumed contempt of the sovereign.36 By the latter part of the eighteenth century, summary power to punish was extended to all contempts whether committed in or out of court.37 In the United States, the Judiciary Act of 178938 conferred power on all courts of the United States "to punish by fine or imprisonment, at the discretion of said courts, all contempts of authority in any cause or hearing before the same." The only limitation placed on this power was that summary attachment was made a negation of all other modes of punishment. The abuse of this extensive power led, following the unsuccessful impeachment of Judge James H. Peck of the Federal District Court of Missouri, to the passage of the Act of 1831 limiting the power of the federal courts to punish misbehavior in the presence of the courts, "or so near thereto as to obstruct the administration of justice," to the misbehavior of officers of courts in their official capacity, and to disobedience or resistance to any lawful writ, process or order of the court.39

An Inherent Power

The nature of the contempt power was described by Justice Field, writing for the Court in Ex parte Robinson,40 sustaining the act of 1831: "The power to punish for contempts is inherent in all courts; its existence is essential to the preservation of order in judicial proceedings, and to the enforcement of the judgments, orders, and writs of the courts, and consequently to the due administration of justice. The moment the courts of the United States were called into existence and invested with jurisdiction over any subject, they became possessed of this power." Expressing doubts concerning the validity of the act as to the Supreme Court, he declared, however, that there could be no question of its validity as applied to the lower courts on the ground that they are created by Congress and that their "powers and duties depend upon the act calling them into existence, or subsequent acts extending or limiting their jurisdiction."41 With the passage of time, later adjudications, especially after 1890, came to place more emphasis on the inherent power of courts to punish contempts than upon the power of Congress to regulate summary attachment.

By 1911, the Court was saying that the contempt power must be exercised by a court without referring the issues of fact or law to another tribunal or to a jury in the same tribunal.42 In Michaelson v. United States,43 the Court intentionally placed a narrow interpretation upon those sections of the Clayton Act44 relating to punishment for contempt of court by disobedience of injunctions in labor disputes. The sections in question provided for a jury upon the demand of the accused in contempt cases in which the acts committed in violation of district court orders also constituted a crime under the laws of the United States or of those of the state where they were committed. Although Justice Sutherland reaffirmed earlier rulings establishing the authority of Congress to regulate the contempt power, he went on to qualify this authority and declared that "the attributes which inhere in the power [to punish contempt] and are inseparable from it can neither be abrogated nor rendered practically inoperative." The Court mentioned specifically the power to deal summarily with contempt committed in the presence of the courts or so near thereto as to obstruct the administration of justice, and the power to enforce mandatory decrees by coercive means.45 This latter power, to enforce, the Court has held, includes the authority to appoint private counsel to prosecute a criminal contempt.46 Although the contempt power may be inherent, it is not unlimited. In Spallone v. United States,47 the Court held that a district court had abused its discretion by imposing contempt sanctions on individual members of a city council for refusing to vote to implement a consent decree remedying housing discrimination by the city. The proper remedy, the Court indicated, was to proceed first with contempt sanctions against the city, and only if that course failed should it proceed against the council members individually.

Sanctions Other Than Contempt

Long recognized by the courts as inherent powers are those authorities that are necessary to the administration of the judicial system itself, of which the contempt power just discussed is only the most controversial.48 Courts, as elements of an independent and coequal branch of government, once they are created and their jurisdiction established, have the authority to do what courts have traditionally done in order to accomplish their assigned tasks.49 Of course, these inherent powers may be limited by statutes and by rules,50 but, just as noted above in the discussion of the same issue with respect to contempt, the Court asserts both the power to act in areas not covered by statutes and rules and the power to act unless Congress has not only provided regulation of the exercise of the power, but also has unmistakably enunciated its intention to limit the courts' inherent powers.51

Thus, in Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., the Court upheld the imposition of monetary sanctions against a litigant and his attorney for bad-faith litigation conduct in a diversity case. Some of the conduct was covered by a federal statute and several sanction provisions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, but some was not, and the Court held that, absent a showing that Congress had intended to limit the courts, they could use their inherent powers to impose sanctions for the entire course of conduct, including shifting attorneys' fees, which is ordinarily against the common-law American rule.52 Nonetheless, the Court has clarified that because a court's order directing a sanctioned litigant to reimburse the legal fees and costs incurred by the wronged party as a result of bad faith conduct is compensatory, rather than punitive, in nature, a fee award may go no further than to redress the wronged party "for losses sustained."53 In another case, a party failed to comply with discovery orders and a court order concerning a schedule for filing briefs. The Supreme Court held that the attorneys' fees statute did not allow assessment of such fees in that situation, but it remanded for consideration of sanctions under both a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure and the trial court's inherent powers, subject to a finding of bad faith.54 But bad faith is not always required for the exercise of some inherent powers. Thus, courts may dismiss an action for an unexplained failure of the moving party to prosecute it.55

Power to Issue Writs

From the beginning of government under the Constitution of 1789, Congress has assumed, under the Necessary and Proper Clause, its power to establish inferior courts, its power to regulate the jurisdiction of federal courts, and its power to regulate the issuance of writs.56 Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789 authorized the Supreme Court "to issue writs of prohibition to the district courts, when proceeding as courts of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, and writs of mandamus, in cases warranted by the principles and usages of law, to any courts appointed, or persons holding office, under the authority of the United States."57 Section 14 provided that all "courts of the United States shall have power to issue writs of scire facias, habeas corpus, and all other writs not specially provided for by statute, which may be necessary for the exercise of their respective jurisdictions, and agreeable to the principles and usages of law."58

Although the Act of 1789 left the power over writs subject largely to the common law, it is significant as a reflection of the belief, in which the courts have on the whole concurred, that an act of Congress is necessary to confer judicial power to issue writs.59 Whether Article III itself is an independent source of the power of federal courts to fashion equitable remedies for constitutional violations or whether such remedies must fit within congressionally authorized writs or procedures is often left unexplored. In Missouri v. Jenkins,60 for example, the Court, rejecting a claim that a federal court exceeded judicial power under Article III by ordering local authorities to increase taxes to pay for desegregation remedies, declared that "a court order directing a local government body to levy its own taxes" is plainly a judicial act within the power of a federal court.61 In the same case, the Court refused to rule on "the difficult constitutional issues" presented by the state's claim that the district court had exceeded its constitutional powers in a prior order directly raising taxes, instead ruling that this order had violated principles of comity.62


  1. Washington-Southern Nav. Co. v. Baltimore & P.S.B.C. Co., 263 U.S. 629 (1924).
  2. 23 U.S. (10 Wheat.) 1 (1825).
  3. 106 U.S. 272, 280 (1882).
  4. See Miner v. Atlass, 363 U.S. 641 (1960), holding that a federal district court, sitting in admiralty, has no inherent power, independent of any statute or the Supreme Court's Admiralty Rules, to order the taking of deposition for the purpose of discovery. See also Harris v. Nelson, 394 U.S. 286 (1969), in which the Court found statutory authority in the "All Writs Statute" for a habeas corpus court to propound interrogatories.
  5. In the Act of June 19, 1934, 48 Stat. 1064, and contained in 28 U.S.C. § 2072, Congress, in authorizing promulgation of rules of civil procedure, reserved the power to examine and override or amend rules proposed pursuant to the act which it found to be contrary to its legislative policy. See Sibbach v. Wilson, 312 U.S. 1, 14–16 (1941). Congress also has authorized promulgation of rules of criminal procedure, habeas, evidence, admiralty, bankruptcy, and appellate procedure. See Hart & Wechsler (6th ed.), supra at 533–543 (discussing development of rules and citing secondary authority). Congress in the 1970s disagreed with the direction of proposed rules of evidence and of habeas practice, and, first postponing their effectiveness, enacted revised rules. Pub. L. No. 93-505, 88 Stat. 1926 (1974); Pub. L. 94-426, 90 Stat. 1334 (1976). On this and other actions, see Hart & Wechsler (6th ed.), supra.
  6. However, the abolition of old rights and the creation of new ones in the course of litigation conducted in conformance with these judicially prescribed federal rules has been sustained as against the contention of a violation of substantive rights. Sibbach v. Wilson, 312 U.S. 1, 14 (1941).
  7. Cf. United States v. Sherwood, 312 U.S. 584, 589–590 (1941).
  8. Mississippi Pub. Corp. v. Murphree, 326 U.S. 438 (1946).
  9. Washington-Southern Nav. Co. v. Baltimore & P.S.B.C. Co., 263 U.S. 629, 635, 636 (1924). It is not for the Supreme Court to prescribe how the discretion vested in a Court of Appeals should be exercised. As long as the latter court keeps within the bounds of judicial discretion, its action is not reviewable. In re Burwell, 350 U.S. 521 (1956).
  10. McDonald v. Pless, 238 U.S. 264, 266 (1915)Griffin v. Thompson, 43 U.S. (2 How.) 244, 257 (1844)See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140 (1985) (court of appeal rule conditioning appeal on having filed with the district court timely objections to a master's report). In Rea v. United States, 350 U.S. 214, 218 (1956), the Court, citing McNabb v. United States, 318 U.S. 332 (1943), asserted that this supervisory power extends to policing the requirements of the Court's rules with respect to the law enforcement practices of federal agents. But compare United States v. Payner, 447 U.S. 727 (1980).
  11. Gumbel v. Pitkin, 124 U.S. 131 (1888)Covell v. Heyman, 111 U.S. 176 (1884)Buck v. Colbath, 70 U.S. (3 Wall.) 334 (1866).
  12. Eberly v. Moore, 65 U.S. (24 How.) 147 (1861)Arkadelphia Co. v. St. Louis S.W. Ry., 249 U.S. 134 (1919).
  13. See Dietz v. Bouldin, 579 U.S. ___, No. 15-458, slip op. at 4 (2016).
  14. Id. at 4–5.
  15. Id. at 4.
  16. Id. at 5–7 (acknowledging that while it is "reasonable" to allow a jury to reconvene after a formal discharge to correct an error and while such an exercise of authority does not conflict with a rule or statute, the exercise of the inherent power to rescind a discharge order needs to be "carefully circumscribed" to guarantee the existence of an impartial jury); see also id. at 9–10 (holding that a court, in exercising an inherent power to rescind a discharge order, must consider, among other factors, (1) the length of delay between discharge and recall; (2) whether jurors have spoken to anyone after discharge; (3) any reaction to the verdict in the courtroom; and (4) any access jurors may have had to outside materials after discharge). The rule provided in Dietz extends only to civil cases, as additional constitutional concerns—namely, the attachment of the double jeopardy bar—may arise if a court were to recall a jury after discharge in a criminal case. See id. at 10.
  17. See Luce v. United States, 469 U.S. 38, 41 n.4 (1984). A motion in limine is a preliminary motion resolved by a court prior to trial and generally regards the admissibility of evidence. See Black's Law Dictionary 1171 (10th ed. 2014).
  18. See Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 507–08 (1947). This doctrine is called forum non conveniensSee Black's Law Dictionary 770 (10th ed. 2014) (defining forum non conveniens as the "doctrine that an appropriate forum — even though competent under the law — may divest itself of jurisdiction if, for the convenience of the litigants and the witnesses, it appears that the action should proceed in another forum in which the action might also have been properly brought in the first place.").
  19. See Landis v. N. Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248, 254 (1936).
  20. Gagnon v. United States, 193 U.S. 451, 458 (1904).
  21. See Dietz, slip op. at 11 (assuming that, even if courts at common law lacked the inherent power to rescind a jury discharge order, a court's exercise of its inherent powers can depart from the common law). The term "common law" refers to the body of English law that was adopted as the law of the American colonies and supplemented with local enactments and judgments. See Black's Law Dictionary 334 (10th ed. 2014).
  22. See Dietz, slip op. at 12.
  23. E.g.United States v. United Mine Workers, 330 U.S. 258 (1947).
  24. Gompers v. Bucks Stove & Range Co., 221 U.S. 418, 441–443 (1911)Ex parte Grossman, 267 U.S. 87 (1925)See also Bessette v. W.B. Conkey Co., 194 U.S. 324, 327–328 (1904).
  25. In Robertson v. United States ex rel. Watson, the Court had granted certiorari to consider a District of Columbia law that allowed a private individual to bring a criminal contempt action in the congressionally established D.C. courts based on a violation of a civil protective order. 560 U.S. ___, No. 08-6261, slip op. (2010). The Court subsequently issued a per curiam order dismissing the writ of certiorari as having been improvidently granted, but four Justices dissented. Writing in dissent, Chief Justice Roberts thought it imperative to make clear that "[t]he terrifying force of the criminal justice system may only be brought to bear against an individual by society as a whole, through a prosecution brought of behalf of the government." 560 U.S. ___, No. 08-6261, slip op. at 1 (2010) (Roberts, C.J., dissenting). Of particular concern was how various protections in the Bill of Rights against government action would play out in a privately brought action. Id. at 5–6.
  26. 267 U.S. 87, 119–120 (1925). In an analogous case, the Court was emphatic in a dictum that Congress cannot require a jury trial where the contemnor has failed to perform a positive act for the relief of private parties, Michaelson v. United States ex rel. Chicago, S.P., M. & Ry. Co., 266 U.S. 42, 65–66 (1924)But see Bloom v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 194, 202 (1968).
  27. See United States v. United Mine Workers, 330 U.S. 258, 299 (1947).
  28. 384 U.S. 364 (1966).
  29. 384 U.S. at 370.
  30. 384 U.S. at 370 n.6. See Hicks v. Feiock, 485 U.S. 624 (1988) (remanding for determination whether payment of child support arrearages would purge a determinate sentence, the proper characterization critical to decision on a due process claim).
  31. 512 U.S. 821 (1994).
  32. 512 U.S. at 832–38. Relevant is the fact that the alleged contempts did not occur in the presence of the court and that determinations of violations require elaborate and reliable fact-finding. See esp. id. at 837–38.
  33. Act of March 2, 1831, ch. 99, § 1, 4 Stat. 488. Cf. Rule 42(a), FRCrP, which provides, "A criminal contempt may be punished summarily if the judge certifies that he saw or heard the conduct constituting the contempt and that it was committed in the actual presence of the court." See also Beale, Contempt of Court, Civil and Criminal, 21 Harv. L. Rev. 161, 171–172 (1908).
  34. See Fox, The Nature of Contempt of Court, 37 L.Q. Rev. 191 (1921).
  35. Many of the limitations placed on the inferior federal courts have been issued on the basis of the Supreme Court's supervisory power over them rather than upon a constitutional foundation, while, of course, the limitations imposed on state courts necessarily are on constitutional dimensions. Indeed, it is often the case that a limitation, which is applied to an inferior federal court as a superintending measure, is then transformed into a constitutional limitation and applied to state courts. Compare Cheff v. Schnackenberg, 384 U.S. 373 (1966)with Bloom v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 194 (1968). In the latter stage, the limitations then bind both federal and state courts alike. Therefore, in this section, Supreme Court constitutional limitations on state court contempt powers are cited without restriction for equal application to federal courts.
  36. Fox, The King v. Almon, 24 L.Q. Rev. 184, 194–195 (1908).
  37. Fox, The Summary Power to Punish Contempt, 25 L.Q. Rev. 238, 252 (1909).
  38. 1 Stat. 83, § 17 (1789).
  39. 18 U.S.C. § 401. For a summary of the Peck impeachment and the background of the act of 1831, see Frankfurter and Landis, Power of Congress Over Procedure in Criminal Contempts in 'Inferior' Federal Courts: A Study in Separation of Powers, 37 Harv. L. Rev. 1010, 1024–1028 (1924).
  40. 86 U.S. (19 Wall.) 505 (1874).
  41. 86 U.S. at 505–11.
  42. Gompers v. Bucks Stove & Range Co., 221 U.S. 418, 450 (1911)See also In re Debs, 158 U.S. 564, 595 (1895).
  43. 266 U.S. 42 (1924).
  44. 38 Stat. 730, 738 (1914).
  45. 266 U.S. at 65–66. See Frankfurter and Landis, Power of Congress Over Procedure in Criminal Contempts in 'Inferior' Federal Courts: A Study in Separation of Powers, 37 Harv. L. Rev. 1010 (1924).
  46. Young v. United States ex rel. Vuitton, 481 U.S. 787, 793–801 (1987). However, the Court, invoking its supervisory power, instructed the lower federal courts first to request the United States Attorney to prosecute a criminal contempt and only if refused should they appoint a private lawyer. Id. at 801–802. Still using its supervisory power, the Court held that the district court had erred in appointing counsel for a party that was the beneficiary of the court order; disinterested counsel had to be appointed. Id. at 802–08. Justice Scalia contended that the power to prosecute is not comprehended within Article III judicial power and that federal judges had no power, inherent or otherwise, to initiate a prosecution for contempt or to appoint counsel to pursue it. Id. at 815. See also United States v. Providence Journal Co., 485 U.S. 693 (1988), which involved the appointment of a disinterested private attorney. The Supreme Court dismissed the writ of certiorari after granting it, however, holding that only the Solicitor General representing the United States could bring the petition to the Court. See 28 U.S.C. § 518.
  47. 493 U.S. 265 (1990). The decision was an exercise of the Court's supervisory power. Id. at 276. Four Justices dissented. Id. at 281.
  48. "Certain implied powers must necessarily result to our courts of justice, from the nature of their institution. . . . To fine for contempt, imprison for contumacy, enforce the observance of order, &c., are powers which cannot be dispensed with in a court, because they are necessary to the exercise of all others: and so far our courts, no doubt, possess powers not immediately derived from statute . . . ." United States v. Hudson & Goodwin, 11 U.S. (7 Cr.) 32, 34 (1812).
  49. See Anderson v. Dunn, 19 U.S. (6 Wheat.) 204, 227 (1821)Ex parte Robinson, 86 U.S. (19 Wall.) 505, 510 (1874)Link v. Wabash R.R., 370 U.S. 626, 630–631 (1962)Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. 32, 43–46 (1991); and id. at 58 (Justice Scalia dissenting), 60, 62–67 (Justice Kennedy dissenting).
  50. Chambers v. NASCO, Inc., 501 U.S. at 47.
  51. Id. at 46–51.
  52. Id. at 49–51.
  53. See Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Haeger, 581 U.S. ___, No. 15-1406, slip op. at 5–6 (2017) (holding that a court, "when using its inherent sanctioning authority," must "establish a causal link—between the litigant's misbehavior and legal fees paid by the opposing party").
  54. Roadway Express, Inc. v. Piper, 447 U.S. 752, 764 (1980).
  55. Link v. Wabash R.R., 370 U.S. 626 (1962).
  56. Frankfurter & Landis, Power of Congress Over Procedure in Criminal Contempts in 'Inferior' Federal Courts—A Study in Separation of Powers, 37 Harv. L. Rev. 1010, 1016–1023 (1924).
  57. 1 Stat. 73, 81. "Section 13 was a provision unique to the Court, granting the power of prohibition as to district courts in admiralty and maritime cases . . . ." Wright, Miller & Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure: Jurisdiction 2d § 4005, p. 98 (1996). See also R. Fallon, et al., Hart and Wechsler's The Federal Courts and the Federal System (6th ed. 2009), Ch. III, p. 268 (hereinafter Hart & Wechsler (6th ed.))
  58. 1 Stat. 73, 81–82. See also United States v. Morgan, 346 U.S. 502 (1954), holding that the All Writs section of the Judicial Code, 28 U.S.C. § 1651(a), gives federal courts the power to employ the ancient writ of coram nobis.
  59. This proposition was recently reasserted in Pennsylvania Bureau of Correction v. United States Marshals Service, 474 U.S. 34 (1985) (holding that a federal district court lacked authority to order U.S. marshals to transport state prisoners, such authority not being granted by the relevant statutes).
  60. 495 U.S. 33 (1990).
  61. 495 U.S. at 55, citing Griffin v. Prince Edward County School Bd., 377 U.S. 218, 233–34 (1964) (an order that local officials "exercise the power that is theirs to levy taxes in order to open and operate a desegregated school system is within the court's power if required to assure . . . petitioners that their constitutional rights will no longer be denied them").
  62. 495 U.S. at 50–52.



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