The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (D.C. Circuit), along with twelve other U.S. courts of appeals, form the middle tier of courts in the federal judiciary between the district courts and the Supreme Court. Because of its location in the nation's capital, which is home to a great number of federal agencies charged with the administration of federal policy, the D.C. Circuit has evolved into a court where cases on administrative law predominate. As a result, not only has the D.C. Circuit grown in expertise in the area of administrative law, but it also shapes policy regarding administrative law through its decisions.
In this new book, political scientist Christopher Banks explains that this unique role evolved largely as a result of the politics of the nation's capital. He shows how, in the 1960s, the liberal D.C. Circuit led the way in making law protecting criminal defendants. This activism caused Congress, in 1970, to remove the court's power to hear "local" criminal appeals. This decision, along with new regulation and several judicial appointments by Republican Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, altered the court's docket and made the D.C. Circuit more conservative. As a result, the court's judicial role changed and led to the D.C. Circuit's preeminence in administrative law. Banks clearly shows the important implications of the court's political transformation.
Because there are few books on circuit courts and their impact upon national politics and law, Judicial Politics in the D.C. Circuit Court will be a welcome addition to the literature. It is a book for political scientists, legal scholars, and students.
"Curiously, with few exceptions very little has been written about the D.C. Circuit even though it occupies a central place in the federal court system. Situated in the nation's capital and once seen as an anomalous federal circuit court that had the unusual duty of taking care of federal law and superintending certain local matters arising from the District of Columbia, it emerged as a 'dominant judicial force' in the modern era for some of the reasons explained in this book. Perhaps the most telling one, though, is the fact that it is a political institution, a circumstance that goes against the popular myth that courts, especially influential ones, are apolitical." -- from the Preface