Judiciary Act of 1869
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The Judiciary Act of 1869, sometimes called the Circuit Judges Act of 1869, a
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, provided that the
Supreme Court of the United States The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the Federal judiciary of the United States, federal judiciary of the United States of America. It has ultimate and largely Procedures of the Supreme Court of the United S ...

Supreme Court of the United States
would consist of the
chief justice of the United States The chief justice of the United States is the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United States and the highest-ranking officer of the U.S. federal judiciary. Appointments Clause, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution gran ...
and eight associate justices, established separate judgeships for the U.S. circuit courts, and for the first time included a provision allowing federal judges to retire without losing their salary. This is the most recent legislation altering the size of the Supreme Court. The Act was signed by President
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.Why does the Supreme Court have nine Justices?
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Impact


Supreme Court size

There were eight justices serving on the Supreme Court at the time the Act was enacted. The
Judicial Circuits Act The Judicial Circuits Act of 1866 (ch. 210, ) reorganized the United States The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US), or America, is a country Contiguous United States, primarily located in Nort ...
of 1866 had provided that the Court be reduced in size from ten to seven justices, but the reduction was to occur only as seats were vacated. Only one
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was vacated between the 1866 and 1869 Acts, this was in addition to the one vacancy that already existed when the 1866 Act took effect. The 1869 Act set the Court at nine members: The 1869 Act had the effect of creating a single new seat, filled by the appointment of
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.


U.S. Circuit Courts

In addition, the 1869 Act stipulated that each of the nine circuit courts of the United States would have a circuit judge appointed who would reside in that locale and have the same power and jurisdiction as the Supreme Court justice assigned to the circuit. It was stipulated that the chief justice and each of the associate justices had the duty to sit at least one term in the circuit every two years. The circuit court could be held by the circuit judge, the Supreme Court justice, or the two could hold the court together, in which case the Supreme Court justice would preside. Up until this time, circuit courts were normally only staffed by district judges and
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Supreme Court
justices "riding circuit." The salary of the circuit court judgeships created was set at $5,000 a year. In addition, the act stipulated that federal judges (including Supreme Court justices) who had served for ten years or more would receive a
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upon their retirement. The pension was set at the salary of the judge at the time of retirement. A judge had to be at least seventy years old at the time of retirement. An earlier version of this legislation had been approved by the 40th Congress at the close of the session in March 1869, but fell victim to a
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from outgoing president
Andrew Johnson Andrew Johnson (December 29, 1808 July 31, 1875) was the 17th president of the United States, serving from 1865 to 1869. He assumed the presidency as he was vice president at the time of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln Abraham L ...

Andrew Johnson
. The act was the third time that Congress had created circuit judgeships. The first time was the soon-repealed
Judiciary Act of 1801The Midnight Judges Act (also known as the Judiciary Act of 1801; , and officially An act to provide for the more convenient organization of the Courts of the United States) represented an effort to solve an issue in the U.S. Supreme Court during the ...
, and the second was a single circuit judgeship in the frontier state of
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which only lasted from 1855 to 1863. Though the law did not abolish circuit riding by the justices of the Supreme Court, it significantly reduced the burden by requiring each justice to attend circuit court in each district within his circuit only once every two years. Circuit court riding would later be abolished by the
Judiciary Act of 1891 The Judiciary Act of 1891 (), also known as the Evarts Act after its primary sponsor, Senator William M. Evarts, created the United States courts of appeals The United States courts of appeals or circuit courts are the intermediate appellate co ...
. The circuit courts themselves were abolished by the
Judicial Code of 1911 The Judicial Code of 1911 () abolished the United States circuit courts and transferred their trial jurisdiction to the U.S. district courts. In 1911, the United States Congress created a single code encompassing all statutes related to the judi ...
, which transferred their trial jurisdiction to the
U.S. district courts#REDIRECT United States district court#REDIRECT United States district court The United States district courts are the general trial court A trial court or court of first instance is a court A court is any person or institution, often as ...
.


References

{{SCOTUS horizontal 1869 in American law United States federal judiciary legislation History of the Supreme Court of the United States 41st United States Congress