Stuart v. Laird 1 Cranch 299 (1803)

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STUART v. LAIRD 1 Cranch 299 (1803)

The judiciary act of 1802, having repealed the judiciary act of 1801 before it could go into operation, abolished the new circuit courts and returned the Justices of the Supreme Court to circuit duty under the judiciary act of 1789. The Stuart case raised the constitutionality of the repeal act of 1802. Although Chief Justice john marshall despised the repeal act and believed it to be unconstitutional, on circuit duty he sidestepped the constitutional issue. When the case came before the Court on a writ of error, Justice william paterson for the Court, with Marshall abstaining, ruled that the practice of riding circuit had begun under the act of 1789 and that long acquiescence "has fixed the construction. It is a contemporary interpretation of the most forcible nature." Thus the Court avoided holding unconstitutional an act of thomas jefferson's administration.

Leonard W. Levy

(see also: Marbury v. Madison.)