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Federal Courts

Court Of International Trade

Congress created the Court of International Trade, formerly known as the Customs Court, to have exclusive jurisdiction in actions involving the imposition of CUSTOMS DUTIES by customs officials. The court can consider the classification of merchandise for customs purposes, the rate charged under the applicable tariff law, or the refusal of the officials of the DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY to make refunds that are allegedly due.

The history and development of the Court of International Trade are intertwined with those of the former Court of Customs and Patent Appeals. At the end of the nineteenth century, the Board of General Appraisers was responsible for the classification of items for import and export and the determination of the rate of customs duties to be imposed. The federal circuit courts, pursuant to their general power to hear appeals, reviewed these decisions from 1890 to 1909. Congress created the Court of Customs Appeals in 1909 to assume the review of appeals from the decisions of the Board of General Appraisers. This specialized court developed expertise in adjudicating the complex and technical issues that arose in customs actions and functioned as a speedy and efficient vehicle for dispensing with such matters, since it could not hear any other cases. It provided sure and uniform administration of justice in such matters, since it was the only court in the United States with exclusive jurisdiction over such matters.

The Board of General Appraisers became the U.S. Customs Court in 1926 and was renamed the Court of International Trade in 1981. The Court of Customs Appeals was designated the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals in 1929 because its jurisdiction was expanded to include review of the decisions of the Patent and Trademark Office. The functions of this court were assumed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in 1982.

The Court of International Trade consists of nine judges, who serve for life unless they are guilty of misconduct; one is named chief judge by the president. Although one judge can hear a case, a panel of three judges usually entertains cases that have significant constitutional ramifications in the customs field. The court is located in New York City because of the importance of the city as a port of entry. The chief judge can dispatch any judges to other ports to hear an action when it is economical, efficient, and fair to do so. A hearing can even be held in a foreign country if that country so permits.

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