Not many people know that when the Constitution was written, the Supreme Court was created as a compromise – middle ground between states’ rights advocates and Federalists. In the first 10 years of operation, the Supreme Court only decided about 50 cases. The founding fathers did not know how greatly it would be used and needed. But in the years of 1801-1835, under Chief Justice John Marshall, the Supreme Court would prove to be a major aspect of the United States Court System, as it became more involved, more united, and more productive.
During the meetings of the very first Congress for our country, congressmen worked to outline a workable national judiciary that would follow the constitution yet still address their concerns. Again, the Federalists and Anti-federalists made their arguments. The law that emerged from this debate was the Judiciary Act of 1789.
Under this historic act, a three-part judiciary was established:
1) A Supreme Court, consisting of a chief justice and five associate justices (and would meet in Washington, DC)
2) Three circuit courts, each having two justices of the Supreme Court and a district judge; and
3) Thirteen district courts, each presided over by one district judge.
The middle tier of this new system — the U.S. circuit courts — acted as the principal trial courts in this newly adopted court system. Each justice was assigned to one of three geographical circuits, and attended the appropriate meetings within the districts of that circuit. The term “circuit riding” came about at this time. Judges usually spent more time on their circuit court duties than their district court duties.
As the ratification process of the Constitution was underway, many citizens voiced fears about the power of an independent federal judiciary. They felt it could threaten state courts and restrict some civil liberties. So, the Judiciary Act responded accordingly, to bring these concerned citizens some reassurance. It allowed state courts to exercise concurrent jurisdiction over many federal questions. It also required federal courts to select juries according to the procedures used by the district’s state courts. Lastly, it guaranteed the right to trial in the district where the defendant lived.
At the same time that debates and decisions were underway involving the Judiciary Act, Congress was discussing the Bill of Rights, and this legislation provided still more assurances that the federal courts would respect certain liberties such as trial by jury.
It became clear that the three-tiered court system was being developed and accepted by the U.S. citizens. And so, we have a multi-tiered federal court structure that operates in conjunction with state courts—an arrangement conceived in 1789 that is still in place today.
Tijerina Legal Group is proud of our country’s history and heritage, and takes the upholding of justice very seriously. We serve McAllen, Brownsville, and surrounding areas of Texas. Contact your dedicated McAllen personal injury attorney to speak with someone committed to your legal rights.