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1789 Judiciary Act

George Washington

1789 Judiciary Act: George Washington was the 1st American President who served in office from April 30, 1789 to March 4, 1797. One of the important events during his presidency was the 1789 Judiciary Act and the establishment of the U.S. federal court system. 

Definition and Summary of the 1789 Judiciary Act
Summary and definition:
The 1789 Judiciary Act established the U.S. federal court system and the lower courts consisting of the federal trial courts and the federal appeals courts. The circuit courts were established to hear appeals from the district courts.

Facts about 1789 Judiciary Act
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on 1789 Judiciary Act.

Why was the 1789 Judiciary Act passed?
The 1789 Judiciary Act was one of the first bills to be considered in the first Congress. The bill was passed to reflect the wording of Article III, Section 1, of the U.S. Constitution. This states that "The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish." 

1789 Judiciary Act for kids - The Constitution
The Constitution established the Supreme Court as the highest court in the US and outlined the number of lower courts and the role and the salaries of the judges. Article 3 also covers
the powers of the courts, the law and their areas of jurisdiction (control). 1789 Judiciary Act clarifies the court system further. The Judiciary Act of 1789 was officially called "An Act to Establish the Judicial Courts of the United States". It was signed into law by President George Washington on September 24, 1789. It is interesting to note that  no authority for a jury was in the Constitution, and did not exist for the Congress at the time the Judiciary Act of 1789 was passed.

Authors of the 1789 Judiciary Act
The bill was mainly authored by Connecticut Senator Oliver Ellsworth (1745-1807) and New Jersey Senator William Paterson (1745-1807)They were considered two of the nation's leading legal experts. Oliver Ellsworth was a drafter of the United States Constitution and became the third Chief Justice of the United States. William Paterson was one of the signers of the Constitution and became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

1789 Judiciary Act for kids - The Attorney General
act also established the office of attorney general of the United States. The attorney general is the head of the United States Department of Justice and the chief lawyer of the U.S. government. The attorney general is an member of the cabinet and is appointed by the president.

1789 Judiciary Act for kids - The Supreme Court
The bill established that the Supreme Court would be composed of one chief judge and five associate judges (called Justices) and that all decisions made by the Supreme Court would be final. It also asserted that the Supreme Court had the power to settle disputes between states.

1789 Judiciary Act for kids - Circuit Courts
The Circuit courts, which consisted of the middle tier of the federal court system, were established to serve as principal trial courts. A local district judge and two Supreme Court justices preside over the circuit courts. The Circuit Courts exercise limited appellate jurisdiction. Appellate jurisdiction is the power of a court to review decisions and change outcomes of decisions of lower courts.

1789 Judiciary Act for kids - Lower Courts
The 1789 Judiciary Act divided the country into districts with one court and one judge in each, together with attorneys (lawyers) responsible for civil and criminal actions in their districts. A writ of mandamus offered one exception to this rule allowing for the appeal of a decision to a higher court with a petition for a Writ of Mandamus. The order will be issued only in exceptional circumstances. (This clause was declared unconstitutional by Marbury v. Madison and the Judiciary Act of 1789 was the first act of Congress to be partially invalidated by the Supreme Court - refer to the Midnight Judges).

US American History
1790-1800: The New Nation

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