Tagged: Early History

Early History of the US Supreme Court

US Supreme Court pic

US Supreme Court
Image: history.com

Outside of her career as a computer systems engineer, Amita Vadlamudi maintains interests in many subjects, including American history. With the April 2017 confirmation of Neil Gorsuch as the 113th justice of the US Supreme Court, individuals like Amita Vadlamudi may find themselves wondering about the court’s earliest days and its first justices.

On September 24, 1789, five months after taking office as the first president of the United States, George Washington signed the Judiciary Act of 1789, which formally established the US Supreme Court and the rest of the federal judiciary. On the same day, he nominated the court’s first chief justice, John Jay, and five associate justices: John Blair Jr., John Rutledge, William Cushing, James Wilson, and Robert Harrison.

The founding fathers of the United States had empowered the US Congress to create the Supreme Court in the US Constitution, and the US Senate had taken up the Judiciary Act as the first piece of business in the body’s history, passing it on the same day as President Washington’s subsequent signing. Two days later, on September 26, 1789, the Senate confirmed all six of the president’s nominations.

The court first met in February of 1790 and then again in August of the same year. It spent its earliest days determining its responsibilities and organizing the federal court system. The Supreme Court did not rule on its first case until 1792, by which time some of the seats belonged to judges other than those originally nominated by President Washington.

It was not until almost 100 years later that the Supreme Court stabilized its numbers of justices, becoming the nine-member court the country knows today. With his confirmation, Judge Gorsuch joins a judicial body that stands as the ultimate arbiter of disputes related to the Constitution.