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Anniversary Marks Creation of U.S. Federal Court System

September 15, 2010

September 24 marks the anniversary of a groundbreaking American invention – a federal court system separate from the individual state courts.

The Federal Courts and Why They Matter to You

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The Judiciary Act of 1789 was one of the first pieces of legislation enacted by the newly formed U.S. Congress. The law created a dual court system – federal and state – that existed in no other country at the time. More than 220 years later, the system remains a vibrant protector of the rights and liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

The Constitution’s Article III was ratified in 1787, creating a Federal Judiciary that would feature the U.S. Supreme Court at its pinnacle. Left to Congress, however, was the job of fleshing out what the Constitution created.

The Judiciary Act of 1789 established a three-tiered federal court system – the Supreme Court, three appellate courts, and 13 district courts. The Act also provided the courts and the justice system with needed staff.

Today, the Federal Judiciary closely resembles the three-tiered system Congress fashioned in 1789. Today’s Supreme Court is comprised of the Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices. Congress also has created 13 courts of appeals and 94 district courts.

The anniversary of the Judiciary Act of 1789 is a time to recognize the first Congress for creating a court system capable of growing to meet the nation’s needs.