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

Introduction

What exactly was “riding circuit”?

Riding circuit referred to the practice established in the Judiciary Act of 1789 of having the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court also serve on the circuit courts. At the time, the three circuits were the Southern Circuit (consisting of South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina), the Middle Circuit (consisting of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia) and the Eastern Circuit (consisting of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont). Riding circuit refers to the fact that the judges would often have to log thousands of miles to attend courts in various states to hear different cases.



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