Congress conferred jurisdiction upon the Court of Federal Claims for "all claims
founded upon any law of Congress, or upon any regulation of an executive
department, or upon any contract, express or implied, with the government of
the United States." Court of Claims Act of 1855, ch. 122, § 1, 10 Stat. 612.
Originally, this Court of Claims was an advisory tribunal which would
investigate claims made against the government and recommend appropriate
action to Congress, which would then appropriate money by private bill.
Because the Court of Claims was originally only empowered to issue advisory
opinions, it was considered to be a legislative or Article I court. This meant the
judges did not receive the constitutional protections of tenure during good
behavior and assurance against salary diminution that Article III judges
In his State of the Union Message of 1861, President Lincoln recommended that
the court be authorized to render final judgments. He declared that it is "as
much the duty of Government to render prompt justice against itself, in favor
of citizens, as it is to administer the same between private individuals." Cong.
Globe, 37th Cong., 2d Sess., app. 2 (1862). In 1863 Congress adopted Lincoln's
recommendation and the decisions of the court became binding, meaning
Congress was no longer required to approve the judgments. Act of March 3,
1863, ch. 92, 12 Stat. 765. Congress granted appellate jurisdiction to the
Supreme Court over Court of Claims judgments in 1866. Act of March 17, 1866,
c. 19, (14 St. 9). See also DeGroot v. U.S., 72 U.S. 419 (1866) (Supreme Court
hears an appeal from Court of Claims).
Once the Court of Claims was granted power to render final judgments, its
status as an Article I court was unsure. The Supreme Court decided in Williams
v. United States, 289 U.S. 553 (1933), that the Court of Claims was an Article I
court and Congress could therefore reduce the salaries of the judges on that
court, which would be constitutionally forbidden for Article III courts.