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


What federal law is perhaps Ellsworth’s greatest achievement?

Oliver Ellsworth was the principal draftsman of the Judiciary Act of 1789, the law that created the U.S. Supreme Court and the federal court system. Ellsworth served on the chair of the committee in charge of the bill and he wrote much of the bill by his own hand. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in her 2003 book The Majesty of the Law: “The Judiciary Act stands as the single most important legislative enactment of the nation’s founding years.”

Thomas Johnson served only 15 months on the bench, the shortest time of any Supreme Court justice. Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

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