Judiciary Act of 1789

Judiciary Act of 1789

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The United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 Judiciary Act of 1789 (ch. 20) was a landmark statute
Statute
A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a state, city, or county. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. The word is often used to distinguish law made by legislative bodies from case law, decided by courts, and regulations...

 adopted on September 24, 1789 in the first session of the First United States Congress establishing the U.S. federal judiciary
United States federal courts
The United States federal courts make up the judiciary branch of federal government of the United States organized under the United States Constitution and laws of the federal government.-Categories:...

. Article III, section 1 of the Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 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, though, for the composition or procedures of any of the courts, leaving this to Congress to decide.

Background


The existence of a separate federal judiciary had been controversial during the debates over the ratification of the Constitution. Anti-Federalists
Anti-Administration Party (United States)
Anti-Administration "Party" was the informal faction comprising the opponents of the policies of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in the first term of President George Washington. This was not an organized political party but an unorganized faction...

 had denounced the judicial power as a potential instrument of national tyranny. Indeed, of the ten amendments that eventually became the Bill of Rights
United States Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. These limitations serve to protect the natural rights of liberty and property. They guarantee a number of personal freedoms, limit the government's power in judicial and other proceedings, and...

, five (the fourth
Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the Bill of Rights which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures, along with requiring any warrant to be judicially sanctioned and supported by probable cause...

 through the eighth
Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution is the part of the United States Bill of Rights which prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines or cruel and unusual punishments. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that this amendment's Cruel and Unusual...

) 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
Admiralty law
Admiralty law is a distinct body of law which governs maritime questions and offenses. It is a body of both domestic law governing maritime activities, and private international law governing the relationships between private entities which operate vessels on the oceans...

 judges. The 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.

Details of the Act


The Act set the number of Supreme Court
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 justices
Judge
A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and in an open...

 at six: one Chief Justice
Chief Justice of the United States
The Chief Justice of the United States is the head of the United States federal court system and the chief judge of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Chief Justice is one of nine Supreme Court justices; the other eight are the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States...

 and five Associate Justices
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States are the members of the Supreme Court of the United States other than the Chief Justice of the United States...

. The Supreme Court was given exclusive original jurisdiction
Original jurisdiction
The original jurisdiction of a court is the power to hear a case for the first time, as opposed to appellate jurisdiction, when a court has the power to review a lower court's decision.-France:...

 over all civil actions between states, or between a state and the United States, as well as over all suits and proceedings brought against ambassadors and other diplomatic personnel; and original, but not exclusive, jurisdiction over all other cases in which a state was a party and any cases brought by an ambassador. The Court was given appellate jurisdiction over decisions of the federal circuit courts as well as decisions by state courts holding invalid any statute or treaty of the United States; or holding valid any state law or practice that was challenged as being inconsistent with the federal constitution, treaties, or laws; or rejecting any claim made by a party under a provision of the federal constitution, treaties, or laws.

The Act also created 13 judicial districts within the 11 states that had then ratified the Constitution (North Carolina
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

 and Rhode Island
Rhode Island
The state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, more commonly referred to as Rhode Island , is a state in the New England region of the United States. It is the smallest U.S. state by area...

 were added as judicial districts in 1790, and other states as they were admitted to the Union). Each state comprised one district, except for Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 and Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

, each of which comprised two. Massachusetts was divided into the District of Maine
Maine
Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is both the northernmost and easternmost...

 (which was then part of Massachusetts) and the District of Massachusetts (which covered modern-day Massachusetts). Virginia was divided into the District of Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

 (which was then part of Virginia) and the District of Virginia (which covered modern-day West Virginia
West Virginia
West Virginia is a state in the Appalachian and Southeastern regions of the United States, bordered by Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, Ohio to the northwest, Pennsylvania to the northeast and Maryland to the east...

 and Virginia).

This Act established a circuit court
United States circuit court
The United States circuit courts were the original intermediate level courts of the United States federal court system. They were established by the Judiciary Act of 1789. They had trial court jurisdiction over civil suits of diversity jurisdiction and major federal crimes. They also had appellate...

 and district court
United States district court
The United States district courts are the general trial courts of the United States federal court system. Both civil and criminal cases are filed in the district court, which is a court of law, equity, and admiralty. There is a United States bankruptcy court associated with each United States...

 in each judicial district (except in Maine and Kentucky, where the district courts exercised much of the jurisdiction of the circuit courts). The circuit courts, which comprised a district judge and (initially) two Supreme Court justices "riding circuit," had original jurisdiction over serious crimes and civil cases of at least $500 involving diversity jurisdiction
Diversity jurisdiction
In the law of the United States, diversity jurisdiction is a form of subject-matter jurisdiction in civil procedure in which a United States district court has the power to hear a civil case where the persons that are parties are "diverse" in citizenship, which generally indicates that they are...

 or the United States as plaintiff. The circuit courts also had appellate jurisdiction over the district courts. The single-judge district courts had jurisdiction primarily over admiralty
Admiralty
The Admiralty was formerly the authority in the Kingdom of England, and later in the United Kingdom, responsible for the command of the Royal Navy...

 cases, 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
Federal question jurisdiction
Federal question jurisdiction is a term used in the United States law of civil procedure to refer to the situation in which a United States federal court has subject-matter jurisdiction to hear a civil case because the plaintiff has alleged a violation of the Constitution or law of the...

.

Congress authorized all people to either represent themselves or to be represented 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 courts of the plaintiff's home state, to remove the lawsuit to the federal circuit court. The power of removal, and the Supreme Court's power to review state court decisions where federal law was at issue, established that the federal judicial power would be superior to that of the states.

The Act created the Office of Attorney General
United States Attorney General
The United States Attorney General is the head of the United States Department of Justice concerned with legal affairs and is the chief law enforcement officer of the United States government. The attorney general is considered to be the chief lawyer of the U.S. government...

, whose primary responsibility was to represent the United States before the Supreme court. The Act also created a United States Attorney
United States Attorney
United States Attorneys represent the United States federal government in United States district court and United States court of appeals. There are 93 U.S. Attorneys stationed throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands...

 and a United States Marshal
United States Marshals Service
The United States Marshals Service is a United States federal law enforcement agency within the United States Department of Justice . The office of U.S. Marshal is the oldest federal law enforcement office in the United States; it was created by the Judiciary Act of 1789...

 for each judicial district.

A clause granting the Supreme Court the power to issue writs of mandamus
Mandamus
A writ of mandamus or mandamus , or sometimes mandate, is the name of one of the prerogative writs in the common law, and is "issued by a superior court to compel a lower court or a government officer to perform mandatory or purely ministerial duties correctly".Mandamus is a judicial remedy which...

 outside its appellate jurisdiction was declared unconstitutional
Constitutionality
Constitutionality is the condition of acting in accordance with an applicable constitution. Acts that are not in accordance with the rules laid down in the constitution are deemed to be ultra vires.-See also:*ultra vires*Company law*Constitutional law...

 by Marbury v. Madison
Marbury v. Madison
Marbury v. Madison, is a landmark case in United States law and in the history of law worldwide. It formed the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the United States under Article III of the Constitution. It was also the first time in Western history a court invalidated a law by declaring...

5 U.S. 137
Case citation
Case citation is the system used in many countries to identify the decisions in past court cases, either in special series of books called reporters or law reports, or in a 'neutral' form which will identify a decision wherever it was reported...

 (1803), one of the seminal cases in American law. Thus, the Judiciary Act of 1789 was the first act of Congress to be partially invalidated by the Supreme Court.

The Judiciary Act of 1789 included the Alien Tort Statute
Alien Tort Statute
The Alien Tort Statute ) is a section of the United States Code that reads: "The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States." This statute is notable for allowing...

, now codified as , which provides jurisdiction
Jurisdiction
Jurisdiction is the practical authority granted to a formally constituted legal body or to a political leader to deal with and make pronouncements on legal matters and, by implication, to administer justice within a defined area of responsibility...

 in the district courts over lawsuits by aliens
Alien (law)
In law, an alien is a person in a country who is not a citizen of that country.-Categorization:Types of "alien" persons are:*An alien who is legally permitted to remain in a country which is foreign to him or her. On specified terms, this kind of alien may be called a legal alien of that country...

 for tort
Tort
A tort, in common law jurisdictions, is a wrong that involves a breach of a civil duty owed to someone else. It is differentiated from a crime, which involves a breach of a duty owed to society in general...

s in violation of the law of nations
International law
Public international law concerns the structure and conduct of sovereign states; analogous entities, such as the Holy See; and intergovernmental organizations. To a lesser degree, international law also may affect multinational corporations and individuals, an impact increasingly evolving beyond...

 or treaties of the United States.