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The Judiciary Act of 1789

No one gets it right all the time, and that includes courts.

But 230 years ago today, an act of Congress created the country’s federal courts, and that’s worth celebrating.

You may not know this, but the only court required by the Constitution was the Supreme Court. It left the rest to Congress. Here’s what it said about that:

“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.”

Well, the Judiciary Act did just that, ordaining and establishing a system with two levels below the Supreme Court. That three-tiered structure endures today.

Of course, things were a lot different back then. The country’s population of 3.9 million lived mostly along the eastern seaboard, and there were three circuit courts and thirteen district courts below the Supreme Court.

Today, there are 330 million people, thirteen circuits, and 94 districts from sea to shining sea.

But the courts are still called on to do what they were then: in the words of the first chief justice of the Supreme Court, to carry justice to every man’s door.

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