Origins of the Federal Court System

Judiciary Act of 1789 and the Lower Federal Courts

Who was the principal author of the Judiciary Act of 1789?

Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut was the principal author of the Judiciary Act of 1789. A member of the Philadelphia Convention of 1787, Ellsworth became a U.S. senator when the Senate first convened in 1789. He was elected chair of the committee designed to follow the dictates of Article III of the new Constitution to create a federal judicial system. William Paterson from New Jersey, another member of the 1787 Convention and an original U.S. senator, also assisted in the drafting of the Judiciary Act of 1789. Both Ellsworth and Paterson later became justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. They both were classmates at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton College) before they entered politics.


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