Judiciary Act of 1789

The Judiciary Act of 1789 (ch. 20, 1 Stat. 73) 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.[2][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 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.[7]

Judiciary Act of 1789
Long titleAn Act to establish the Judicial Courts of the United States
Nicknamesestablishment of the federal judiciary
Enacted bythe 1st United States Congress
Citations
Statutes at Large1 Stat. 73
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the Senate as the Judiciary Act by Richard Henry Lee[1] on June 12, 1789[1]
  • Passed the Senate on July 17, 1789 (14–6)
  • Passed the House of Representatives on September 17, 1789 (37–16[1]) with amendment
  • Senate agreed to House of Representatives amendment on September 19, 1789[1] () with further amendment
  • House agreed to Senate amendment on September 21, 1789[1] ()
  • 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

The existence of a separate federal judiciary had been controversial during the debates over the ratification of the Constitution. Anti-Federalists had denounced the judicial power as a potential instrument of national tyranny. Indeed, of the ten amendments that eventually became the 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.[6]


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