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Judiciary Act of 1789

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Judiciary Act of 1789
Great Seal of the United States
Long title An Act to establish the Judicial Courts of the United States
Nicknames establishment of the federal judiciary
Enacted by the 1st United States Congress
Statutes at Large 1 Stat. 73
Legislative history
Introduced in the Senate as the Judiciary Act by Richard Henry Lee[1] on June 12
, 1789
Passed the Senate on July 17, 1789 (14-6)
Passed the House of Representatives on September 17, 1789 (37-16[2]) with amendm
Senate agreed to House of Representatives amendment on September 19, 1789[2] ()
with further amendment
House agreed to Senate amendment on September 21, 1789[2] ()
Signed into law by President George Washington on September 24, 1789
Major amendments
Judiciary Act of 1801, 1802, 1866, 1867, 1869, 1891, 1925
U.S. Const. amend. XI
United States Supreme Court cases
Marbury v. Madison
v t e
The first page of the Judiciary Act of 1789
The United States Judiciary Act of 1789 (ch. 20, 1 Stat. 73) was a landmark stat
ute adopted on September 24, 1789, in the first session of the First United Stat
es Congress. It established the U.S. federal judiciary.[3][4][5][6] Article III,
Section 1 of the Constitution prescribed that the "judicial power of the United
States, shall be vested in one supreme Court," and such inferior courts as Cong
ress saw fit to establish. It made no provision, though, for the composition or
procedures of any of the courts, leaving this to Congress to decide.[7]
The existence of a separate federal judiciary had been controversial during the
debates over the ratification of the Constitution. Anti-Federalists had denounce
d the judicial power as a potential instrument of national tyranny. Indeed, of t
he ten amendments that eventually became the Bill of Rights, five (the fourth th
rough the eighth) dealt primarily with judicial proceedings. Even after ratifica
tion, some opponents of a strong judiciary urged that the federal court system b
e limited to a Supreme Court and perhaps local admiralty judges. The Congress, h
owever, decided to establish a system of federal trial courts with broader juris
diction, thereby creating an arm for enforcement of national laws within each st
Contents [hide]
1 Legislative history
2 Provisions of the Act
3 Judicial review
4 See also
5 References
6 External links
Legislative history[edit]
The Judiciary Act was reported to the Senate by Senator Richard Henry Lee (AA-VA
) on June 12, 1789.[2] The bill was principally written by Senator Oliver Ellswo
rth of Connecticut.[8] The Act was passed by the Senate by a vote of 14 to 6 on
July 17, 1789. The bill was debated by the House in July and August 1789 before
being passed with amendments on September 17, 1789 by a vote of 37 to 16. The Se
nate agreed to all but four of the House's amendments on September 19, 1789. The
House passed the bill as agreed to by Senate on September 21, 1789. On Septembe
r 24, 1789, President George Washington signed the Judiciary Act of 1789 into la
w. That same day, Washington nominated the first Chief Justice and five Associat
e Justices of the Supreme Court. In addition, Washington nominated district judg
es, United States Attorneys, and United States Marshals for Connecticut, Delawar
e, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvani
a, South Carolina, and Virginia.[2][9]
Provisions of the Act[edit]
The Act set the number of Supreme Court justices at six: one Chief Justice and f
ive Associate Justices. The Supreme Court was given exclusive original jurisdict
ion over all civil actions between states, or between a state and the United Sta
tes, as well as over all suits and proceedings brought against ambassadors and o
ther diplomatic personnel; and original, but not exclusive, jurisdiction over al
l other cases in which a state was a party and any cases brought by an ambassado
r. The Court was given appellate jurisdiction over decisions of the federal circ
uit courts as well as decisions by state courts holding invalid any statute or t
reaty of the United States; or holding valid any state law or practice that was
challenged as being inconsistent with the federal constitution, treaties, or law
s; or rejecting any claim made by a party under a provision of the federal const
itution, treaties, or laws.
The Act also created 13 judicial districts within the 11 states that had then ra
tified the Constitution (North Carolina and Rhode Island were added as judicial
districts in 1790, and other states as they were admitted to the Union). Each st
ate comprised one district, except for Virginia and Massachusetts, each of which
comprised two. Massachusetts was divided into the District of Maine (which was
then part of Massachusetts) and the District of Massachusetts (which covered mod
ern-day Massachusetts). Virginia was divided into the District of Kentucky (whic
h was then part of Virginia) and the District of Virginia (which covered modern-
day West Virginia and Virginia).
This Act established a circuit court and district court in each judicial distric
t (except in Maine and Kentucky, where the district courts exercised much of the
jurisdiction of the circuit courts). The circuit courts, which comprised a dist
rict judge and (initially) two Supreme Court justices "riding circuit," had orig
inal jurisdiction over serious crimes and civil cases of at least $500 involving
diversity jurisdiction or the United States as plaintiff in common law and equi
ty. The circuit courts also had appellate jurisdiction over the district courts.
The single-judge district courts had jurisdiction primarily over admiralty case
s, 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 represent
ed 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 c
ourts of the plaintiff's home state, to remove the lawsuit to the federal circui
t court. The power of removal, and the Supreme Court's power to review state cou
rt decisions where federal law was at issue, established that the federal judici
al 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 and a United States Marshal for each judicial district.[
The Judiciary Act of 1789 included the Alien Tort Statute, now codified as 28 U.
S.C. 1350, which provides jurisdiction in the district courts over lawsuits by a
liens for torts in violation of the law of nations or treaties of the United Sta
Judicial review[edit]
Main articles: Judicial review and Marbury v. Madison
A clause granting the Supreme Court the power to issue writs of mandamus outside
its original jurisdiction was declared unconstitutional by Marbury v. Madison (
1803) (5 U.S. 137), one of the seminal cases in American law. The Supreme Court
held that Section 13 of the Judiciary Act was unconstitutional because it purpor
ted to enlarge the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court beyond that permit
ted by the Constitution. In Marbury, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress canno
t pass laws that are contrary to the Constitution, and that it is the role of th
e judicial system to interpret what the Constitution permits. Thus, the Judiciar
y Act of 1789 was the first act of Congress to be partially invalidated by the S
upreme Court.[10][11]
See also[edit]
1st United States Congress
Courts of the United States
United States Constitution
Jump up ^ Richard Henry Lee reported the Judiciary Act to the Senate on June 12,
^ Jump up to: a b c d e Marcus, Maeva (1992), The Documentary History of the Sup
reme Court of the United States, 1789-1800, Columbia University Press, ISBN 0-23
Jump up ^ Judiciary Act of 1789, Library of Congress, retrieved 2013-07-14
Jump up ^ History of the Federal Judiciary, Federal Judicial Center, retrieved 2
Jump up ^ 1789 Judiciary Act, Encyclopdia Britannica, retrieved 2013-07-14
^ Jump up to: a b U.S. Marshals Service, History, The Judiciary Act of 1789, Uni
ted States Marshals Service, retrieved 2013-07-14
Jump up ^ Federal Judiciary Act (1789), National Archives and Records Administra
tion, retrieved 2013-07-14
Jump up ^ Senator Ellsworth's Judiciary Act, United States Senate, retrieved 201
Jump up ^ A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents
and Debates, 1774 - 1875
Jump up ^ Supreme Court History: The Court and Democracy, Marbury v. Madison, pb, retrieved 2/12/07
Jump up ^ The Supreme Court in United States history, Volume 1. By Charles Warre
n. Little, Brown, 1922.