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Judiciary Act of 1789: Primary Documents in American History

On September 24, 1789, the Judiciary Act of 1789 was signed into law, creating the federal court system and the position of attorney general. This guide compiles digital materials, external websites, and a print bibliography related to the act.

Introduction

The Judiciary Act of 1789, officially titled "An Act to Establish the Judicial Courts of the United States," was signed into law by President George Washington on September 24, 1789. Article III of the Constitution established a Supreme Court, but left to Congress the authority to create lower federal courts as needed. Principally authored by Senator Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut, the Judiciary Act of 1789 established the structure and jurisdiction of the federal court system and created the position of attorney general. Although amended throughout the years by Congress, the basic outline of the federal court system established by the First Congress remains largely intact today.