Sep 062005

In light of all the attention being given to the Supreme Court lately, I thought I’d provide a little SCOUSA trivia. Here’s information on the first case ever handled by the Supreme Court.

Chisholm v. Georgia (1793) is generally considered to be the first substantial case decided by the Supreme Court. It held that the federal courts could hear individual lawsuits against states. It also firmly established the Supreme Court as final arbiter of all constitutional disputes.

Article III, Section 1 of the United States Constitution established the presence of a Supreme Court, but punted on the organizational details. The Judiciary Act of 1789 handled those, codifying the office of attorney general, the Supreme Court, and the system of lower federal district courts.

The first Supreme Court was introduced on February 2, 1790 in New York, the country’s temporary capital. Headed by the diplomat John Jay, the court had one chief justice and five associate justices. All six men had helped draft the Constitution.

Since the Supreme Court was established to handle appeals from lower district courts, and the entire judiciary system was brand-spanking new, business was initially quite slow. The justices spent their time getting organized, hearing qualifications from lawyers, and traveling the country inspecting lower courts.

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