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An Informal History of the Appellate Section

Steps in front of the 10th Circuit Court, portion of an old letter from Judge Sulivan, N.H and old photograph of teh Byron White U.S. Courthouse, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. Courtesy of U.S. Courts.

From its creation in 1937 as one of the original six sections of the Lands Division, the Appellate Section has handled appeals from all of the Division’s trial sections, and assisted the Office of Solicitor General with Supreme Court cases arising from the Division. As a result, its work has included an unusually broad variety of important natural resources and environmental issues. Indeed, there are few significant developments in these areas of the law over the past 70 years in which the Appellate Section has not played some role. The Section thus provides a unique perspective on the evolution of land and natural resources law in this period, as well as the birth of environmental law in the 1960s and 70s, and its subsequent development and expansion. 

This history is mainly focused on important cases litigated by the Section that reflect turning points in the law or highlight some other important facet of the work of the Section. It is somewhat arbitrarily divided into six “eras” that correspond to changes in the types of issues coming before the Section. Each era is prefaced by a short summary. An attempt is made to give some idea of the remarkable people who have worked in the Appellate Section since 1937, as well as what it was like to work in the Section in different eras.


Updated February 1, 2024