Judiciary Act

From Academic Kids

For the law in Australia, see Judiciary Act 1903.

Judiciary Act of 1789

The Judiciary Act of 1789 (1 Stat 73) established the entire federal judiciary, which initially consisted of a Supreme Court of six judges, 3 circuit courts, and 13 district courts. It also created the offices of marshal, deputy marshal, and district attorney. In addition, it established the Supreme Court as the mediator of all disputes between states and the federal government concerning conflicting state and federal laws.

A clause granting the Supreme Court the right to issue writs of mandamus was declared unconstitutional by Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803), one of the seminal cases in American law. Thus the Judiciary Act of 1789 was the first act by Congress to be partially invalidated by the Supreme Court.

The Judiciary Act of 1789 included the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1350, which provides jurisdiction by United States District Courts for tort claims by aliens for torts in violation of law of nations or treaties of the United States.

Judiciary Act of 1801

The Judiciary Act of 1801 (2 Stat. 132) was passed on February 13, 1801 by a lame duck Federalist Congress and President John Adams in order to prolong Federalist control of the judiciary in the face of an incoming Republican Congress and Jefferson administration. It reduced the number of seats on the Supreme Court from six to five, effective upon the next vacancy in the Court. It reorganized the circuit courts, doubling them in number from three to six, and created a separate circuit judgeship for each circuit. It reorganized the district courts, creating ten additional courts; in addition to subdividing many of the existing district courts, it created the U.S. District Court for the District of Ohio which covered the Northwest and Indiana Territories, and even carved out the U.S. District Court for the District of Potomac from the District of Columbia and pieces of Maryland and Virginia, which was the first time a district court crossed state lines. (Such crossings of state lines are extremely rare in U.S. history. The only district court currently crossing state lines is the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, which is given jurisdiction over the whole of Yellowstone National Park, a small portion of which lies in Montana and Idaho.)

In the nineteen days between passage of this Act and the conclusion of his administration, President Adams quickly filled as many of the newly created judgeships as possible. The new judges were known as the Midnight Judges because Adams was said to be signing their appointments at midnight prior to Jefferson's inauguration.

This Act was ineffective in prolonging Federalist control: the Republican Congress repealed it on March 8, 1802, and the Federalist judges in the newly created courts found themselves out of work, their positions abolished. No vacancy occurred in the Supreme Court during the brief period in which this act was effective. The separate circuit judgeships introduced by this Act would not appear again until 1869.

Judiciary Act of 1802

The Judiciary Act of 1802 (2 Stat. 156) was passed on April 29, 1802. It restored some elements of the Judiciary Act of 1801. The circuit courts were again reorganized, again doubling their count from three to six, although Kentucky, Tennessee, and Maine were excluded from the circuits this time. It again subdivided the former U.S. District Court for the District of North Carolina into the districts of Albemarle, Cape Fear, and Pamptico. It again subdivided the former U.S. District Court for the District of Tennessee into the Eastern and Western Districts of Tennessee.

It also created the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Judiciary Act of 1866

The Judiciary Act of 1866 has been used to refer to two different laws. The first, (14 Stat. 209), is more commonly called the Judicial Circuits Act. The second, (14 Stat. 306), provided for the removal of certain cases from state courts to the federal courts.

Judiciary Act of 1869

The Judiciary Act of 1869 (16 Stat. 44), also called the Circuit Judges Act of 1869, made two important reforms of the federal judiciary. First, judgeships were created for the circuit courts; in this case, one circuit judgeship was created for each of the nine circuits. Up until this time, circuit courts were normally only staffed by district judges and Supreme Court justices "riding circuit". This was actually the third time that Congress had created circuit judgeships, but the first time was the rapidly repealed Judiciary Act of 1801, and the second was a single circuit judgeship in the frontier state of California which only lasted from 1855 to 1863.

Second, for the first time, federal judges (and justices) were given the option to retire with a pension. The pension was set at the salary of the judge at the time of retirement, and a judge had to be at least seventy years old and have ten years of service on the federal bench before being allowed to retire.

This Act also set the Supreme Court at its current size of nine justices. (It had been set to seven to prevent Andrew Johnson from naming any Supreme Court justices.)

Judiciary Act of 1891

The Judiciary Act of 1891, also known as the Evarts Act after Senator William M. Evarts, created the U.S. Courts of Appeals, and reassigned the jurisdiction of most routine appeals from the district and circuit courts from the Supreme Court to these appellate courts. Because of this, it is sometimes called the 1891 Circuit Courts of Appeals Act.


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