What Were John Adams's Midnight Appointments?

The Midnight Appointments, also called the Judiciary Act of 1801, was an attempt to separate the Supreme and Circuit courts and to appoint Federalist supporters into the newly created court positions. The appointments were called the Midnight Appointments, because they were completed in the last 19 days of Adams presidency, with three being signed on his last day in office.

Before the act was passed, the Supreme Court justices had to "ride the circuit" and oversee several federal courts. When the judges had to do this, they traveled to the various courts to oversee and hear cases. With the Judiciary Act of 1801, the need to travel ended, but the number of circuit courts and judges increased.