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What was the Judiciary Act of 1789?

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Quick Answer

The Judiciary Act of 1789, also known as "An act to establish the judicial courts of the United States," established a Supreme Court with the option for Congress to institute lower courts as needed federally, according to the Library of Congress. It created the groundwork for the federal court system.

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The Judiciary Act of 1789 was signed into law on Sept. 24, 1789, by President George Washington, although it was originally created by Senator Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut. Beyond creating an outline of the federal court system, the Act also established the position of attorney general. The Judiciary Act of 1789 stipulates that the Supreme Court shall consist of a chief justice and five associate judges, according to the Library of Congress.

The Act also stipulates that a quorum of four of the judges or chief justice must convene twice each year, and it names the districts governed under the Judiciary Act of 1789. A district court in each of the districts, as well as the appointment of a district judge in each territory, was also established by the Act, according to the Library of Congress. The Act enables the judicial department to garner jurisdiction when laws are in question or disputed.

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