Thursday, September 24, 2015


JFK+50:  Volume 5, No. 1723


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Two centuries and 26 years ago today, September 24, 1789, the Congress of the United States passed and President George Washington signed into law the Judiciary Act of 1789 establishing the Supreme Court of the United States.

The first high court was composed of six justices who served until death or retirement.  President Washington appointed John Jay of New York the first Chief Justice and associate justices John Rutledge, William Cushing, John Blair, Robert Harrison and James Wilson.  All were confirmed by the United States Senate two days later.

The Supreme Court was established by Article III of the United States Constitution.  The Court has appellate jurisdiction over all federal courts and state court cases involving federal law.  The Court has the final say in the interpretation of federal law.

The power of the Supreme Court became greater during the tenure of Chief Justice John Marshall (1801-1835) who established the principal of judicial review over the laws of the United States.

Chief Justice John Marshall
US Supreme Court Building
Washington, D.C.
Photo by John White (2003)

In 1869, the number of justices was increased to nine where it stands today.

The Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren in the 1950s and 1960s expanded civil liberties, most notably the Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954 which outlawed segregation in public schools.

Today the Supreme Court of the United States is composed six male and three female judges.  Their average age is just under 70.  Four are from New York, two are from New Jersey, two are from California and one is from Georgia.

The Supreme Court Building is located at One First Street NE in Washington, D.C.  Each term begins on the first Monday of October and ends on the first Monday of October the following year.

The Court receives 10,000 petitions each term.

United States Supreme Court Building
Washington, D.C.
Photo by John White (2003)


"The First Supreme Court, 1789,"

The Supreme Court of the United States,

Marbury v. Madison (1803)
U.S. Supreme Court Building
Photo by John White (2003)