Federal Procedure – Mandamus – Power of Courts of Appeal

In two related antitrust actions instituted in the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, an order was entered under rule 53(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure referring the cases to a master for trial because of the “extremely congested calendar” then facing the court. All parties to the· action moved to vacate the order and these motions were denied by the district judge. After appearing before the master to object to the reference, the defendants petitioned the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit praying that a writ of mandamus issue to compel the district judge to vacate the order of reference. The petitions were granted. On certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, held, affirmed, four justices dissenting. Since the court of appeals could at some stage of the proceedings have entertained an appeal in these cases, it had the power in proper circumstances to issue writs reaching them. The order of reference was an abuse of discretion and the exceptional circumstances of the case justified issuance of the writ. LaBuy v. Howes Leather Co., 352 U.S. 249 (1957).