The Judiciary

The Judiciary in Trade 

Information Courtesy Congressional Research Service, R45148

How do federal courts get involved in trade?

Legal challenges may be brought in federal court by importers, exporters, domestic manufacturers, and other injured parties to appeal governmental actions and decisions concerning trade. Cases may involve, for example, customs classification decisions, agency determinations in antidumping (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) proceedings, Section 201 safeguards, Section 232 national security investigations (see “Tariffs and Trade Remedies”), or the constitutionality of state economic sanctions. The federal government may also initiate legal proceedings against individuals and firms to enforce customs laws or statutory restrictions on particular imports and exports. Some trade statutes may preclude judicial review. For example, most preliminarydeterminations in AD and CVD proceedings and governmental actions involving the implementation of World Trade Organization (WTO) and free trade agreements may not be challenged in federal court. While most federal cases involving trade laws are heard in the U.S. Court of International Trade (see below), cases may also be filed in other federal courts depending on the nature of the cause of action or proceeding involved. Court decisions may significantly affect U.S. trade policy when they (1) examine whether an agency has properly interpreted its statutory mandate or has acted outside the scope of its statutory authority, (2) decide how much deference courts should accord actions of the executive branch undertaken pursuant to statutory grants of authority, or (3) rule on whether a trade statute violates the U.S. Constitution.

What is the U.S. Court of International Trade?

The U.S. Court of International Trade (USCIT) is an Article III federal court located in New York City with exclusive jurisdiction over a number of trade-related matters, including customs decisions, trade remedy determinations, import embargoes imposed for reasons other than health and safety, and the recovery of customs duties and penalties. Formerly known as the Customs Court, the USCIT was renamed in the Customs Court Act of 1980, which also significantly enlarged its jurisdiction. The court consists of nine judges, no more than five of whom may be from the same political party. Judges are appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. USCIT decisions may be appealed by right to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and possibly to the U.S. Supreme Court.108