Researching the U.S. Court of International Trade
This guide identifies case law access points and legislation and rules relating to the United States Court of International Trade (USCIT), a U.S. federal court.
International trade is an essential part of the American economy and the world economy. Throughout the years, there has been a marked increase in the number of disputes involving international trade in the United States. This research guide focuses on the United States Court of International Trade (USCIT), the U.S. federal court that deals most closely with this issue. It includes a history and background on the USCIT, case law access, legislation relating to the Court, court rules, and additional resources.
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History of the Court
The USCIT website indicates that the first case tried by the first judge appointed to the first court established under the United States Constitution dealt with a dispute involving importation to the new nation. Since then, many customs and international trade cases have come before U.S. courts.
The predecessor to the USCIT was the Board of General Appraisers, provided for by Congress in 1890. See Customs Administration Act of 1890, ch. 407, 26 Stat. 131. In 1926, Congress replaced the Board of General Appraisers with the United States Customs Court, established under Article I of the Constitution. See Act of May 28, 1926, ch. 411, 44 Stat. 669.
In 1956, the Congress declared the Customs Court to be a court established under Article III of the Constitution, thus integrating it into the federal court system. See Act of July 14, 1956, ch. 589, 70 Stat. 532 (codified at 28 USC 251(a) (1994)).
In the late 1960s, the Congress determined that fundamental changes in the Customs Court's procedures, jurisdiction and powers were required. These broad changes were implemented through two pieces of legislation, one addressing the procedural changes to the Court, and the other the substantive changes. The Customs Courts Act of 1970 (Pub. L. No. 91-271; §110, 84 Stat. 274) addressed the procedural reforms, and the Customs Courts Act of 1980 (Pub. L. No. 96-417, 94 Stat. 1727) addressed the remaining substantive issues. Through the Customs Courts Act of 1980, the United States Customs Court became the United States Court of International Trade.
Looking up the Laws in this Section
The acts mentioned in this section can be accessed on Lexis and Westlaw by using the Statutes at Large citation. In Lexis, under the "Get a Document" tab, type in the citation of the law (e.g. 26 Stat. 131); in Westlaw, type in the citation in "Find by Citation." To look up these laws in print, consult United States Statutes at Large, KF50 .U5.
Jurisdiction and Composition
In terms of geographical jurisdiction, the United States Court of International Trade is authorized to hear cases arising anywhere in the nation. The USCIT is additionally authorized to hold hearings in foreign countries. Congress granted the USCIT broad subject matter jurisdiction in the Customs Courts Act of 1980, which authorizes the Court to decide any civil action against the U.S. or its officers or agencies arising out of any law pertaining to international trade. The USCIT has the power to grant any appropriate relief in any case before it, including money judgments, writs of mandamus, and injunctions.
The nine judges who constitute the USCIT are appointed by the U.S. President, with the advice and consent of the Senate. The judges are appointed for life, as are all judges appointed under Article III of the Constitution. The chambers of the judges, courtrooms and offices of the USCIT are located at 1, Federal Plaza in New York.
USCIT Case Law
The official source for USCIT opinions is United States Court of International Trade Reports, KF6655.A2 U54. Customs Courts opinions were officially reported in United States Customs Court Reports, KF6655.A2 U54.
The U.S. Court of International Trade provides electronic access through their website to their slip opinions from 1999 to the present. Westlaw (FINT-CIT) has the Customs Court and USCIT decisions in one database, with coverage from 1938 to the present.
Lexis has Customs Court decisions from 1938-1980 and USCIT decisions from 1980 to the present. The path within Lexis to these databases is shown below.
- Legal > Area of Law by Topic > International Trade > Cases>Interpreting US Law > US Customs Court Cases
- Legal > Area of Law by Topic > International Trade > Cases > Interpreting US Law > US Court of International Trade Cases
Through LLMC Digital, PDFs are available for volumes 1 through 31 of USCIT cases (1980-2007) and for all volumes (1 to 85) of Customs Court cases.
Several provisions of the United States Code (USC) pertain to the USCIT. These are found in Title 28 of the USC and deal with the organization, jurisdiction and procedures of the USCIT. These provisions are available through GPO Access:
- Organization, sections 251 to 258
- Jurisdiction, sections 1581 to 1585
- Procedures, sections 2631 to 2647
Legislative History of the Customs Courts Act of 1980
As mentioned above, the USCIT was established by the Customs Courts Act of 1980 (Pub. L. No. 96-417, 94 Stat. 1727. To see a listing of all of the debates, hearings, and House and Senate reports associated with the Customs Courts Act of 1980, use ProQuest Congressional. Under the "Search Types" heading at left, click on "Search by Number," then click the radio button for "Public Law Number" and use the drop-down menu to enter "96 (1979-1980)" [PL] 417 for the Customs Courts Act of 1980 and click the "Search" button. The resulting list will be of all documents in the legislative history of the Act, in full-text PDF where available. Use the "Narrow Results by" feature at lower right to view only certain types of documents.
For research assistance in locating the full text of individual documents from the legislative history of the Customs Courts Act of 1980, please refer to the Library's Legislative History Research Guide or contact a reference librarian for assistance.
The rules of court for the USCIT are available online through the Court's website. In print, refer to An Up-to-Date Copy of the United States Court of International Trade Rules, KF6698 .A4 1984. This is a looseleaf that is kept up-to-date through supplements.
Georgetown Journal of International Law
The Georgetown University Law Center's Georgetown Journal of International Law (GJIL), INTL K7 .E483, has been selected by the USCIT as the first law journal to publish an annual review of its work.
The first issue of each GJIL volume is entitled International Trade Review and provides an independent critique and analysis of the work of the USCIT. It draws articles, essays, notes, and case commentaries from practitioners, academics, and students from all over the world. These scholarly pieces are selected by the editors of GJIL based on their relevance to important issues recently before the USCIT, and trends in the decisions of the USCIT and their review by the Federal Circuit.
Visit the GJIL website for more information and to view or download past issues in PDF. For GJIL issues and articles through other online services or in print at the Library, check the library catalog.
The following search terms are useful when searching the library catalog, databases and other online sources: United States Court of International Trade, USCIT, United States Customs Court.
Use the following subject headings to locate relevant materials in library catalogs:
- Foreign Trade Regulation -- United States
- Trade Regulation -- United States
- Customs Administration -- United States
- Tariff Law and Legislation -- United States
- United States Customs Court
- United States Court of International Trade
The Georgetown Law Library has several research guides listed below that relate to the topics of customs law and international trade. For a complete list of research guides, see our Research Guides page.
Updated May 2013 (AJC)
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