Circuit riding
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In the United States, circuit riding was the practice of a judge, sometimes referred to as a circuit rider, traveling to a judicial district (referred to as a circuit) to preside over court cases there. A defining feature of American federal courts for over a century after the founding of the United States, circuit riding has since been mostly abolished. The term, however, lives on in the name " circuit court", a colloquialism commonly used to refer to the
United States courts of appeals The United States courts of appeals are the intermediate appellate courts of the United States federal judiciary. The courts of appeals are divided into 11 numbered circuits that cover geographic areas of the United States and hear appeals fr ...
.


History

Shortly after the ratification of the
United States Constitution The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It superseded the Articles of Confederation, the nation's first constitution, in 1789. Originally comprising seven articles, it delineates the nat ...
in 1788,
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passed the
Judiciary Act of 1789 The Judiciary Act of 1789 (ch. 20, ) was a United States federal statute enacted on September 24, 1789, during the first session of the First United States Congress. It established the federal judiciary of the United States. Article III, Sec ...
, creating the U.S. circuit courts. These circuit courts did not have appointed judges; rather, two Supreme Court Justices and the state district judge would preside over cases. This created the practice of circuit riding, wherein Supreme Court justices would travel to designated meeting places in their assigned circuit to hear cases. Circuit riding in the early United States was often an arduous process, requiring long travel on horseback or carriage over harsh terrain, months-long extended stays away from home, and difficulties in acquiring lodging (Congress did not provide accommodations). Circuit riding temporarily ceased in 1801, when the
Federalist The term ''federalist'' describes several political beliefs around the world. It may also refer to the concept of parties, whose members or supporters called themselves ''Federalists''. History Europe federation In Europe, proponents of d ...
majority in Congress established new circuit courts that were staffed with Federalist-appointed judges. The next year this reorganization was repealed, and circuit riding resumed under the original circuit court structure. In 1891, Congress passed the
Judiciary Act of 1891 The Judiciary Act of 1891 ({{USStat, 26, 826), also known as the Evarts Act after its primary sponsor, Senator William M. Evarts, created the United States courts of appeals and reassigned the jurisdiction of most routine appeals from the distric ...
, creating the
United States courts of appeals The United States courts of appeals are the intermediate appellate courts of the United States federal judiciary. The courts of appeals are divided into 11 numbered circuits that cover geographic areas of the United States and hear appeals fr ...
, which assumed most of the routine functions of the circuit courts, significantly curtailing the need for circuit riding. The circuit courts continued to exist (in significantly reduced form) until January 1, 1912, when Congress abolished them under the Judicial Code of 1911, eliminating the practice of circuit riding.


See also

* Assizes — a type of judicial courts, to which circuit riding often applied * Itinerant court — older, similar concept for royalty and governments


References

Courts Types of travel {{US-gov-stub