As is abundantly clear from the Supreme Court’s June 2011 decision in Stern v. Marshall, the debate over the propriety of non-Article III federal adjudication tends to reduce to the classical divide between separation-of-powers formalists and functionalists. Thus, Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion for the 5-4 majority, in the course of holding that non-Article III bankruptcy courts could not constitutionally exercise jurisdiction over certain kinds of state-law counterclaims, repeatedly trumpeted the need zealously to protect Article III prerogatives from even the smallest encroachment. In contrast, Justice Breyer’s dissent harped on the real-world efficiency that such adjudication promoted, criticizing the majority for failing to appreciate how much its decision would likely slow down (and further complicate) bankruptcy litigation by requiring the intervention of district courts before final judgment in a far greater number of cases. As Breyer explained, “a constitutionally required game of jurisdictional ping-pong between courts would lead to inefficiency, increased cost, delay, and needless additional suffering among those faced with bankruptcy.”
For those, like Justice Breyer, who are taken by the functional case for non-Article III adjudication, Lawrence Baum’s new book, Specializing the Courts, couldn’t come at a better time. Indeed, although Baum’s monograph consciously sidesteps the debate over the constitutionality of non-Article III adjudication, there are obvious—if not compelling—parallels between his comprehensive treatment of the causes and consequences (and pros and cons) of judicial specialization and the functional case for at least most non-Article III federal courts. Continue reading "Judicial Specialization and the Functional Case for Non-Article III Courts"