Judiciary Act of 1789
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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 The federal judiciary of the United States is one of the three branches of the federal government of the United States organized under the Constitution of the United States, United States Constitution and Law of the United States, laws of the fed ...
. Article III, Section 1 of the
Constitution A constitution is the aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity A polity is an identifiable Politics, political entity – a group of people with a collective identity, who ...

Constitution
prescribed that the "judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one
Supreme Court A supreme court is the highest court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the administration of ju ...

Supreme Court
, and such inferior Courts" as Congress saw fit to establish. It made no provision for the composition or procedures of any of the courts, leaving this to Congress to decide. The existence of a separate federal judiciary had been controversial during the debates over the ratification of the Constitution.
Anti-Federalists Anti-Federalism was a late-18th century political movement that opposed the creation of a stronger U.S. federal government and which later opposed History of the United States Constitution#1788 ratification, the ratification of the 1787 United St ...
had denounced the judicial power as a potential instrument of national
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tyranny
. Indeed, of the ten amendments that eventually became the
Bill of Rights A bill of rights, sometimes called a declaration of rights or a charter of rights, is a list of the most important rights to the citizens of a country. The purpose is to protect those rights against Civil and political rights, infringement fr ...

Bill of Rights
, five (the fourth through the eighth) dealt primarily with judicial proceedings. Even after ratification, some opponents of a strong judiciary urged that the federal court system be limited to a Supreme Court and perhaps local admiralty judges. Congress, however, decided to establish a system of federal trial courts with broader jurisdiction, thereby creating an arm for enforcement of national laws within each state.


Legislative history

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Richard Henry Lee Richard Henry Lee (January 20, 1732June 19, 1794) was an American statesman and Founding Father The following list of national founding figures is a record, by country, of people who were credited with establishing a state. National founder ...

Richard Henry Lee
( AA-
Virginia Virginia, officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States, Southeastern regions of the United States, between the East Coast of the United Stat ...

Virginia
) reported the judiciary bill out of committee on June 12, 1789; of
Connecticut Connecticut () is the southernmost state in the New England region of the Northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, New York (state), New York to the west, and Long Island Sound to the ...
was its chief author. The bill passed the Senate 14–6 on July 17, 1789, and the
House of Representatives House of Representatives is the name of legislative bodies in many countries and sub-national entitles. In many countries, the House of Representatives is the lower house of a bicameral Bicameralism is a type of legislature, one divided ...
then debated the bill in July and August 1789. The House passed an amended bill 37–16 on September 17, 1789. The Senate struck four of the House amendments and approved the remaining provisions on September 19, 1789. The House passed the Senate's final version of the bill on September 21, 1789.
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U.S. President
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George Washington
signed the Act into law on September 24, 1789.


Provisions of the Act

The Act set the number of
Supreme Court A supreme court is the highest court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authority to Adjudication, adjudicate legal disputes between Party (law), parties and carry out the administration of ju ...

Supreme Court
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justices
at six: one Chief Justice and five Associate Justices. The Supreme Court was given exclusive
original jurisdiction In common law (legal system), common law legal systems original jurisdiction of a court is the power to hear a case for the first time, as opposed to appellate jurisdiction, when a higher court has the power to review a lower court's decision. ...
over all civil actions between states, or between a state and the United States, as well as over all suits and proceedings brought against ambassadors and other diplomatic personnel; and original, but not exclusive, jurisdiction over all other cases in which a state was a party and any cases brought by an ambassador. The Court was given appellate jurisdiction over decisions of the federal circuit courts as well as decisions by state courts holding invalid any statute or treaty of the United States; or holding valid any state law or practice that was challenged as being inconsistent with the federal constitution, treaties, or laws; or rejecting any claim made by a party under a provision of the federal constitution, treaties, or laws. The Act also created 13 judicial districts within the 11 states that had then ratified the Constitution (
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North Carolina
and
Rhode Island Rhode Island (, like ''road'') is a U.S. state, state in the New England region of the Northeastern United States. It is the List of U.S. states by area, smallest U.S. state by area and the List of states and territories of the United States ...
were added as judicial districts in 1790, and other states as they were admitted to the Union). Each state comprised one district, except for
Virginia Virginia, officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States, Southeastern regions of the United States, between the East Coast of the United Stat ...

Virginia
and
Massachusetts Massachusetts (Massachusett language, Massachusett: ''Muhsachuweesut assachusett writing systems, məhswatʃəwiːsət'' English: , ), officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous U.S. state, state in the New England ...

Massachusetts
, each of which comprised two. Massachusetts was divided into the District of
Maine Maine () is a U.S. state, state in the New England and Northeastern United States, Northeastern regions of the United States. It borders New Hampshire to the west, the Gulf of Maine to the southeast, and the Provinces and territories of Canad ...

Maine
(which was then part of Massachusetts) and the District of Massachusetts (which covered modern-day Massachusetts). Virginia was divided into the District of
Kentucky Kentucky ( , ), officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a U.S. state, state in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States and one of the states of the Upper South. It borders Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio to ...
(which was then part of Virginia) and the District of Virginia (which covered modern-day
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and Virginia). This Act established a circuit court and district court in each judicial district (except in Maine and Kentucky, where the district courts exercised much of the jurisdiction of the circuit courts). The circuit courts, which comprised a district judge and (initially) two Supreme Court justices "riding circuit," had original jurisdiction over serious crimes and civil cases of at least $500 involving diversity jurisdiction or the United States as plaintiff in
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent, judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions."The common law is not a brooding omnipres ...
and equity. The circuit courts also had appellate jurisdiction over the district courts. The single-judge district courts had jurisdiction primarily over admiralty cases, petty crimes, and suits by the United States for at least $100. Notably, the federal trial courts had not yet received original federal question jurisdiction. Congress authorized all people to either represent themselves or to be represented by another person. The Act did not prohibit paying a representative to appear in court. Congress authorized persons who were sued by citizens of another state, in the courts of the plaintiff's home state, to
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the lawsuit to the federal circuit court. The power of removal, and the Supreme Court's power to review state court decisions where federal law was at issue, established that the federal judicial power would be superior to that of the states. The Act created the Office of Attorney General, whose primary responsibility was to represent the United States before the Supreme Court. The Act also created a
United States Attorney United States attorneys are officials of the United States Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice who serve as the chief federal law enforcement officers in each of the 94 United States federal judicial district, U.S. federal judici ...
and a United States Marshal for each judicial district. The Judiciary Act of 1789 included the Alien Tort Statute, now codified as , which provides
jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin 'law' + 'declaration') is the legal term for the legal authority granted to a legal entity to enact justice. In federations like the United States, areas of jurisdiction apply to local, state, and federal levels. Jur ...
in the district courts over lawsuits by aliens for
tort A tort is a civil wrong that causes a claimant to suffer loss or harm, resulting in legal liability for the person who commits the tortious act. Tort law can be contrasted with criminal law, which deals with criminal wrongs that are punishab ...

tort
s in violation of the
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or treaties of the United States.


Implementation

Immediately after signing the Judiciary Act into law, President Washington submitted his nominations to fill the offices created by the Act. Among the nominees were
John Jay John Jay (December 12, 1745 – May 17, 1829) was an American statesman, Patriot (American Revolution), patriot, diplomat, Abolitionism in the United States, abolitionist, signatory of the Treaty of Paris (1783), Treaty of Paris, and a Founding ...

John Jay
for Chief Justice of the United States;
John Rutledge John Rutledge (September 17, 1739 – June 21, 1800) was an American Founding Fathers of the United States, Founding Father, politician, and jurist who served as one of the original Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, as ...
, William Cushing, Robert H. Harrison, James Wilson, and John Blair Jr. as Associate Justices; Edmund Randolph for
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; and myriad district judges,
United States Attorney United States attorneys are officials of the United States Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice who serve as the chief federal law enforcement officers in each of the 94 United States federal judicial district, U.S. federal judici ...
s, and United States Marshals for
Connecticut Connecticut () is the southernmost state in the New England region of the Northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, New York (state), New York to the west, and Long Island Sound to the ...
,
Delaware Delaware ( ) is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Maryland to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and New Jersey and the Atlantic Ocean to its east. The s ...
, Georgia,
Kentucky Kentucky ( , ), officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a U.S. state, state in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States and one of the states of the Upper South. It borders Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio to ...
,
Maryland Maryland ( ) is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It shares borders with Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; ...

Maryland
,
Maine Maine () is a U.S. state, state in the New England and Northeastern United States, Northeastern regions of the United States. It borders New Hampshire to the west, the Gulf of Maine to the southeast, and the Provinces and territories of Canad ...

Maine
,
Massachusetts Massachusetts (Massachusett language, Massachusett: ''Muhsachuweesut assachusett writing systems, məhswatʃəwiːsət'' English: , ), officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous U.S. state, state in the New England ...

Massachusetts
,
New Hampshire New Hampshire is a U.S. state, state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Gulf of Maine to the east, and the Canadian province of Quebec t ...

New Hampshire
,
New Jersey New Jersey is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic States, Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States, Northeastern regions of the United States. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York (state), New York; on the ea ...
, New York,
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania (; (Pennsylvania Dutch language, Pennsylvania Dutch: )), officially the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a U.S. state, state spanning the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic, Northeastern United States, Northeastern, Appa ...

Pennsylvania
,
South Carolina )''Animis opibusque parati'' ( for, , Latin, Prepared in mind and resources, links=no) , anthem = "Carolina (state song), Carolina";"South Carolina On My Mind" , Former = Province of South Carolina , seat = Columbia, South Carolina, Columbia , ...

South Carolina
, and
Virginia Virginia, officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a U.S. state, state in the Mid-Atlantic (United States), Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States, Southeastern regions of the United States, between the East Coast of the United Stat ...

Virginia
. All six of Washington's Supreme Court nominees were confirmed by the Senate. Harrison, however, declined to serve. In his place, Washington later nominated , who joined the Court in 1790, thereby bringing the Court to its "full strength" complement of six members. The first six persons to serve on the United States Supreme Court (ordered by seniority) were: File:John Jay (Gilbert Stuart portrait).jpg,
John Jay John Jay (December 12, 1745 – May 17, 1829) was an American statesman, Patriot (American Revolution), patriot, diplomat, Abolitionism in the United States, abolitionist, signatory of the Treaty of Paris (1783), Treaty of Paris, and a Founding ...

John Jay

Chief Justice
Commissioned:
Sept. 26, 1789 File:John Rutledge color painting.jpg,
John Rutledge John Rutledge (September 17, 1739 – June 21, 1800) was an American Founding Fathers of the United States, Founding Father, politician, and jurist who served as one of the original Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, as ...

Associate Justice
Commissioned:
Sept. 26, 1789 File:WilliamCushing.jpg, William Cushing
Associate Justice
Commissioned:
Sept. 27, 1789 File:JusticeJamesWilson.jpg, James Wilson
Associate Justice
Commissioned:
Sept. 29, 1789 File:John Blair (page 82 crop).jpg, John Blair
Associate Justice
Commissioned:
Sept. 30, 1789 File:JamesIredell.jpg,
Associate Justice
Commissioned:
Feb. 10, 1790
The seniority of the associate justices was set by § 1 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, which assigned seniority by the dates borne on the judicial commissions each justice received from President Washington prior to taking office. This rule setting seniority of the justices is today codified at Title 28 U.S.C., § 4.


Judicial review

A clause in Section 13 of the Judiciary Act, which granted the Supreme Court the power to issue writs of mandamus under its original jurisdiction, was later declared unconstitutional. In '' Marbury v. Madison'', one of the seminal cases in American law, the Supreme Court held that was unconstitutional because it purported to enlarge the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court beyond that permitted by the Constitution. The case was the first that clearly established that the judiciary can and must interpret what the Constitution permits and declare any laws which are contrary to the Constitution as unenforceable. Thus, the Judiciary Act of 1789 was the first act of Congress to be partially invalidated by the Supreme Court.


See also

* List of federal judges appointed by George Washington *
List of courts of the United States The courts of the United States are closely linked hierarchical systems of courts at the federal and state levels. The United States federal courts, federal courts form the judicial branch of the US government and operate under the authority 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 ...

United States Constitution


References


External links


Judiciary Act of 1789: Primary Documents of American History (Library of Congress)
{{Authority control 1789 in American law United States federal judiciary legislation History of the Supreme Court of the United States Acts of the 1st United States Congress