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A Short History of The U.S. Court System

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  • Wednesday February 8th, 2017
U.S. Courts

As personal injury attorneys, we are dependent on the court system to deliver justice for our fellow citizens.  The US court system is vast and complex—worthy of appreciation and respect.  It’s also a distinct part of our unique American identity.

Our multi-tiered judiciary system protects individual rights through the supremacy of the federal courts and the work done by the state courts. This balancing act didn’t just happen.  It’s the result of countless hours of discussion among the Founding Fathers, like George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay.  You may know a lot about our system today, but what about how it came to be?

HOW IT BEGANU.S. court history

The Constitutional Convention in 1787, the development of the United States Constitution itself (ratified in 1788), and the First Congress in 1789.

Four years after the end of the Revolutionary War, The Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia took place.  More than 50 delegates at this meeting conducted a fierce debate about how to frame the Constitution and how to structure a national justice system.  They also set out to structure a national judiciary.

Excerpted from the National Archives and Records Administration: In all, 55 delegates attended the Constitutional Convention sessions, but only 39 actually signed the Constitution.

There were two distinct groups in opposition regarding how the Constitution should be crafted. The Federalists were strong proponents of a mighty, powerful national government. They were suspicious of the parochial prejudice of state courts. Federalists and their supporters believed that the federal judiciary should consist of trial courts, appellate courts, and one supreme tribunal.

The Anti-federalists supported states’ rights. They feared that a dominant federal judiciary would undermine the states’ authority and that the federal government would be too powerful. They felt that the state should have both trial and appellate courts, and that the supreme federal court would exist to hear final appeals.

When the U.S. Constitution was ratified, it addressed this disagreement, but not in full. It sketched out a federal court system in general terms, and introduced a distinctly American concept—the Supreme Court.

Article III of the Constitution begins,

“The judicial Power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”

President George Washington chose the very first Supreme Court justices.

The Tijerina Personal Injury Law Firm of Mcallen, Texas welcomes your inquiries, and is proud to share this fascinating information about how our incredible justice system developed.