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


Who were the nation’s first three chief justices?

The first three chief justices of the U.S. Supreme Court were John Jay, John Rutledge, and Oliver Ellsworth. Jay served from 1789 to 1795. Rutledge, who had served as an associate justice from 1789 to 1791, served as chief justice for only five months in 1795. He was a recess appointment and the Senate rejected his nomination. Ellsworth served from 1796 to 1800 after sitting associate justice William Cushing became the second chief justice nominee of President George Washington to be rejected by the Senate in 1796.


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