Preliminary Guide to Environmental Sources
201 Varick Street
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Fax: (212) 337-1306
- Record Group 21. Records of District Courts of the United States.
[Although the description does not note that this record group contains material concerning environmentally related cases, it is highly likely that it does contain pertinent information.]
U.S. district and circuit courts were created by the Judiciary Act of September 24, 1789. The jurisdiction and powers of these Federal courts have varied with subsequent legislation, but district courts generally have had original jurisdiction in admiralty and bankruptcy cases, suits for penalties or seizures under Federal laws, noncapital criminal proceedings, and suits exceeding $100 in value in which the United States was the plaintiff. The circuit courts heard appeals from the district courts and had original jurisdiction over actions involving aliens or citizens of different States and law and equity suits where the matter in dispute exceeded $500. In 1891, the appellate jurisdiction of the circuit courts was transferred to the newly created circuit courts of appeals (see RG 276). The Judiciary Act of 1911 abolished the circuit courts and provided for the transfer of their records and remaining jurisdiction to the district courts.
Most States initially had one district and one circuit court with additional districts created as the business of the courts increased. Many of the districts were divided into divisions with the court holding session in various cities within the district. In 1812, circuit courts were authorized to appoint U.S. commissioners to assist in taking of bail and affidavits. The Commissioners' functions were expanded by subsequent legislation and court rules, and their powers have included authority to issue arrest warrants, examine persons charged with offenses against Federal laws, initiate actions in admiralty matters, and institute proceedings for violation of civil rights legislation.
Territorial district courts generally were established by the organic act that created the territory and had jurisdiction over Federal civil, criminal, and bankruptcy actions as well as civil and criminal jurisdiction similar to that of State courts. Records created by a territorial court acting in its capacity as a Federal court often became the property of the Federal district court upon statehood.
Volume: 42,531 cubic feet
Records of the Vice Admiralty Court for the Province of New York, 1685-1775.
The records document cases heard under jurisdiction of the British Admiralty involving felonies, piracies, and robberies committed on the high seas. They include case files and minutes.
Records of the following circuit and district courts:
- New Jersey, Circuit, 1842-1920.
- New Jersey, District, 1820-1967. The records include Committee for Industrial Organization v. Frank Hague, establishing the right of the CIO to carry on union activity in Jersey City, New Jersey.
- New York, Circuit, Eastern District, 1865-1914. The records include a copyright infringement case brought by the son of Oliver Wendell Holmes over the rights to The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, which appeared in the first issue of the Atlantic Monthly.
- New York, Circuit, Northern District, 1812-1919. The records include the criminal prosecution of Susan B. Anthony for illegal voting.
- New York, Circuit, Southern District, 1790-1939. The records include a 1791 roll of attorneys listing Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, and equity cases brought by Thomas A. Edison and Alexander Graham Bell.
- New York, Circuit, Western District, 1891-1911. The records include the patent infringement case, Orville and Wilbur Wright v. the Herring-Curtiss Company and Glen H. Curtiss, over the design of the Wright flying machine.
- New York, Eastern District, 1865-1969. The records include the World War II treason prosecution of Martin James Monti, and numerous organized crime cases.
- New York, Northern District, 1852-1968.
- New York, Southern District, 1789-1968. The records include the bankruptcy filing of Dino Crocetti, known to most as Dean Martin, criminal prosecutions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Alger Hiss, and Arthur "Dutch Shultz" Flegenheimer, and admiralty limitation of liability cases for the Lusitania and the Titanic. The court heard civil actions involving cultural and entertainment figures such as Richard Burton, Charles Chaplin, Oscar Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Elizabeth Taylor, Orson Wells, and Batman.
- New York, Western District, 1815-1976. The records include major anti-trust litigation involving the Eastman Kodak Company.
- Puerto Rico, District, 1897-1967.
The records document the actions of Federal district and circuit courts, which have jurisdiction over naturalization, bankruptcy, civil (law, equity, and admiralty), and criminal cases. Among general topics covered are biography, civil rights, commerce and corporate history, demographics, genealogy, immigration and ethnic groups, the impact of Federal regulatory programs, judicial administration, labor relations and union activity, maritime history, and State and local political activity. Among specific topics covered are collection of debts, enforcement of contracts, claims for damages; counterfeiting, and smuggling or violations of customs regulations; European immigration and the exclusion and deportation of Chinese; evasion of import duties; the illegal sale or manufacturing of alcoholic beverages; infringement of patent or copyright; interstate transfer of stolen property; mutiny or murder on the high seas; prize condemnations; theft, assault, or murder on Federal property; violations of Federal election laws and civil rights legislation, international agreements (such as the Migratory Bird Act); Selective Service regulations; and slave importation laws. References to specific cases are noted above under the name of the court.
Records are primarily case files - papers in a specific case filed by attorneys or issued by the court, such as affidavits, complaints, depositions, indictments, judgments or final decrees, motions, petitions, subpoenas, and writs. Bankruptcy case files also contain petitions of creditors and schedules of assets and liabilities. Case files are arranged numerically by the docket number assigned when the case was filed. Documentary exhibits submitted as part of court proceedings usually were returned to the parties involved, but they are sometimes included in the case file. (Transcripts are seldom part of the file.)
There are also docket books - a summary of proceedings in each case, including a brief abstract of motions and orders, a record of the fees collected, and a statement of the disposition of the case; minute books or journals - a daily chronological record of court proceedings, often including information about financial accounts and the collection of fees, lists of jury members, names of attorneys admitted to practice, and the text of orders appointing court officials; naturalization papers - declarations of intention, petitions for naturalization, depositions, and certificates of naturalization; order or judgment books - the text of each order or judgment and a record of the amount of any monetary judgment; record of proceedings (only for U.S. commissioners) - a printed form that gives the name of the defendant, and summaries of the nature of the charge, the actions taken, and the disposition of the case. Nontextual records include maps and photographs.
Finding Aids: Draft inventories for each court.
Records for a case usually can be located by name of the court and case number. The number sometimes can be determined from minute, docket, or order books. The books often have indexes to the names of the parties involved in the proceedings. Such books are not available for all courts. There is no cumulative index by subject, case name, or other access point. Additional information is sometimes available from the clerk of the court involved.
Marion M. Johnson and Henry T. Ulasek, comp., Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, PI 116 (1959).
Related Microfilm Publications:
- M854, Minutes, Trial Notes, and Rolls of Attorneys of the U.S. Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York, 1790-1841;
- M855, Appellate Case Files of the U.S. Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York, 1793-1845;
- M882, Judgment Records of the U.S. Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York, 1794-1840;
- M883, Law Case Files of the U.S. Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York, 1790-1846;
- M884, Equity Case Files of the U.S. Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York, 1791-1846;
- M885, Criminal Case Files of the U.S. Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York, 1790-1853;
- M886, Minutes and Rolls of Attorneys of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1789-1841;
- M919, Admiralty Case Files of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1790-1842;
- M928, Prize and Related Records for the War of 1812 of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1812-1816;
- M933, Act of 1800 Bankruptcy Records of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1800-1809;
- M934, Judgment Records of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1795-1840;
- M937, Law Case Files of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1795-1844;
- M948, Case Papers of the Court of Admiralty of the State of New York, 1784-1788;
- M965, Case Files in Suits Involving Consuls and Vice Consuls and the Repeal of Patents of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1806-1860;
- M1164, Index to Naturalization Petitions of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, 1865-1957;
- M1674, Index (Soundex) to Naturalization Petitions Filed in Federal, State, and Local Courts in New York, New York, Including New York, Kings, Queens, and Richmond Counties, 1792-1906;
- M1675, Alphabetical Index to Declarations of Intention of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1917-50;
- M1676, Alphabetical Index to Petitions for Naturalization of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1824-1941;
- M1677, Alphabetical Index to Petitions for Naturalization of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, 1906-1966;
- T842, Records of the Vice Admiralty Court of the Province of New York;
- T928, Records of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey and Predecessor Courts, 1790-1950.
- Record Group 79. Records of the National Park Service at NARA's
Northeast Region (New York City)
The National Park Service was established in the Department of the Interior by an act of August 25, 1916. It supervises national parks, monuments, historic parks, memorials, parkways, recreation areas, and seashores and is responsible for the promotion and regulation of their use. It establishes and enforces regulations for use, protects parks from fire, regulates concession operators, investigates and recommends proposed new areas, acquires land, and constructs and maintains roads, trails, and buildings. It also engages in research and educational work such as arranging lectures and guided tours, marking nature trails, maintaining museums and libraries, and preparing publications and studies in history, archeology, natural history, and wildlife.
Volume: 77 cubic feet
Records of the New York City Group (which administers all NPS sites in the city), 1929-1965; Morristown National Historical Park, New Jersey, 1934-1956; and Statue of Liberty National Monument, 1936-1964.
The records are general subject files that relate to administration, finances, and personnel and consist of correspondence, directives, memorandums, and reports.
Finding Aid: Box contents list.
- Record Group 114. Records of the Natural Resources Conservation
Service at NARA's Northeast Region (New York City).
The Soil Conservation Service (SCS) was established in the Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1935, replacing the Soil Erosion Service which had been established in 1933, and acquiring duties from other Government agencies. In 1937, it began to provide technical and other assistance to farmers in soil conservation districts organized under State laws. In 1938, the SCS was given responsibility for farm forestry programs; in 1944, it was given responsibility for assisting in water conservation programs; and in 1952, it was authorized to assume the soil survey previously run by other USDA units. The SCS conducts soil and snow surveys, river basin surveys, and investigations and watershed activities; assists local groups in planning and developing land and water resources; and gives technical help to landowners and operators who participate in USDA's agricultural conservation, cropland conversion, and cropland adjustment programs.
In 1935, regional offices were established to supervise conservation work in large geographic areas, and in 1938-1939 area offices were created to assist the regional offices. State offices replaced area offices in 1942. Regional offices were discontinued in 1954, and the SCS now relies on State offices to give technical and administrative supervision to local units.
Volume: 21 cubic feet
Records of the New York State office. The records relate to engineering design and construction of the Buffalo Creek flood prevention and Ischua Creek watershed protection projects. Included are field notebooks, job diaries, and nontextual records such as "as-built" plans, design books, drawings, and tracings.
Finding Aids: Folder title list.
Entry 177 in Guy A. Lee and Freeland F. Penney, comps., Preliminary Checklist of Records of the Soil Conservation Service, 1928-1943, PC 52 (1947).
Record Group 276. Records of the U.S. Courts of Appeals at NARA's Northeast Region (New York City)
The courts of appeals are intermediate courts created by an act of March 3, 1891, to relieve the Supreme Court of considering appeals in cases originally decided by Federal courts. They are empowered to review final and certain interlocutory decisions of district courts (see RG 21) except where the law provides for direct review by the Supreme Court. They also review orders of Federal administrative bodies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the National Labor Relations Board.
Volume: 5,191 cubic feet
Records of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, New York City. The records document appeals of lower Federal court decisions in Connecticut, New York, and Vermont. Among the prominent individuals whose cases were heard are Frank Costello, Marcus Garvey, Alger Hiss, James Joyce, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, and Orville and Wilbur Wright. The records are case files and include bills of cost, opinions, stipulations, Supreme Court orders on petitions for writs of certiorari, and transcripts of record from lower courts and administrative agencies. Also included are dockets and minutes.
Finding Aid: Draft inventory.
Record Group 434. Department of Energy.
[There is no description available for this record group.]