The Jay, Rutledge, and Ellsworth Courts (1789–1800)


In what case did the U.S. Supreme Court assert jurisdiction over admiralty disputes involving captured ships?

The U.S. Supreme Court, under the leadership of Chief Justice John Jay, ruled in Glass v. The Sloop Betsey (1794) that federal courts in the United States have jurisdiction over captured vessels taken into American ports even if the ships involved are not American. The issue arose after a French ship, the Citizen Genet, captured a Swedish vessel called the Sloop Betsey and sent the vessel into Baltimore. The French captain, Pierre Arcade Johannene, asserted that France had the right to set up its own prize court, a court specifically designed to hear admiralty disputes, in the United States to hear this dispute.

The U.S. Supreme Court determined that “no foreign power can of right institute, or erect, any court of judicature of any kind, within the jurisdiction of the United States.” The Court also determined that “every District Court in the United States, possesses all the powers of a court of Admiralty.”


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