Judiciary Act of 1801 2 Stat. 89 (1801)

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JUDICIARY ACT OF 1801 2 Stat. 89 (1801)

This maligned congressional enactment was the final achievement of the Federalists and one of their most constructive, but the Federalists so enmeshed it in partisanship that the first important action of thomas jefferson's administration was the repeal of the act. It created resident circuit judgeships and enormously expanded federal jurisdiction. The judiciary act of 1789 had created circuit courts consisting of district court judges and Supreme Court Justices. From the outset the Justices complained about the arduous duty of riding circuit and the necessity of deciding in their appellate capacity the same cases they had decided on circuit. Congress had done nothing to separate the Justices from the circuit courts, despite presidential recommendations. The Republican victories in 1800 spurred judicial reform that was "worth an election to the [Federalist] party," said a Federalist leader. A lame-duck Congress belatedly passed a much needed bill that created six circuit courts staffed by sixteen circuit judges. More important, the bill extended the jurisdiction of the federal courts to include virtually the entire judicial power of the United States authorized by Article III, including a general grant of federal question jurisdiction—something which Congress did not grant again until 1875. But the bill also reduced the size of the Supreme Court to five when the next vacancy occurred, to prevent Jefferson from making an appointment. Also, President john adams at the last hour appointed sixteen Federalists to the new circuit judgeships. Enraged Republicans determined to pass the judiciary acts of 1802.

Leonard W. Levy


Turner, Kathryn 1965 Federalist Policy and the Judiciary Act of 1801. William and Mary Quarterly 22:3–32.

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Judiciary Act of 1801 2 Stat. 89 (1801)

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