The United States Supreme Court’s heritage has lasted just about as long as the country’s history— officially established on September 24, 1789. The Judiciary Act of 1789, signed by President George Washington, established the Supreme Court as a high priority for the country’s new government. The early forms of the Supreme Court initiated change that is still present in today’s court.

The Supreme Court’s early beginnings

The Judiciary Act of 1789 divided the United States into 13 judicial districts, which organized into three circuits: the Eastern, Middle, and Southern. The Supreme Court was to sit in the Nation’s Capital and was made up of six justices who served on the court until either retirement or their death. On September 24, 1789, President Washington nominated John Jay to preside as chief justice, and John Rutledge, William Cushing, John Blair, Robert Harrison, and James Wilson were elected associate justices.

Following this assignment, the six men were confirmed by the U.S. Senate on September 26. Then, the U.S. Constitution, under Article 3, granted the Supreme Court complete jurisdiction over all laws. Court justices could oversee cases concerning U.S. treaties, foreign diplomats, admiralty practice, and maritime jurisdiction. On February 1, 1790, members met in New York City’s Royal Exchange Building for their first session, in which they discussed their organizational proceedings. Justices didn’t make their first opinion until August 3, 1791, in the case of West v. Barnes.

Working on big issues

Since 1789, the Supreme Court grew into becoming the most important section of the judicial branch of the U.S. government. It frequently found its place in American politics and the court has retained its traditions over the years. Since 1869, the court only has nine justices, a small group of individuals who still play a definitive role in resolving the biggest issues of all time.

For example, some of the most famous Supreme Court cases include:

  • Brown v. Board of Education (1954)
  • Miranda v. Arizona (1966)
  • Roe v. Wade (1973)
  • U.S. v. Nixon (1974)

Whether you approve of these decisions or not, the Supreme Court has played an intricate role in shaping the United States. We can only imagine what cases will be brought to their agenda in the future. Regardless, they’ll be exciting, just like they were in 1789.