History of the Supreme Court

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Supreme Court of the United States

The Supreme Court of the United States was established under Article III of the Constitution of the United States. Though Article III provided for the creation of "one Supreme Court" and "inferior Courts," the Judiciary Act of 1789 actually created the structure of the court system.[1] On September 24, 1789, the Act was signed into law by President George Washington. That same day, he nominated John Jay to serve as the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.[2][3][4]

The size, jurisdiction, location and recognized authority of the Supreme Court have changed over the years. The only thing that has remained constant is the selection of its justices. Both the Chief Justice and Associate Justices are nominated by the President of the United States and confirmed by the United States Senate. Once justices are confirmed, they are appointed for life and are only removed from office by death, retirement or impeachment.

The Royal Exchange Building

Inaugural session

The Supreme Court was supposed to convene for the first time on February 1, 1790 in the Royal Exchange Building in New York City.[4] However, only three justices were present, so a quorum was not met. The next day, John Blair was present and the Court officially came to order.[5]


In addition to nominating Chief Justice Jay, on September 24, 1789, President Washington also nominated five Associate Justices: John Rutledge, William Cushing, John Blair, James Wilson and Robert Harrison. All five were confirmed by the Senate, though Harrison declined the nomination for health reasons.[6] In his place, Washington nominated James Iredell.


Article III of the United States Constitution outlines the jurisdiction of the federal courts of the United States:

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority; to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls; to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction; to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party; to Controversies between two or more States; between a State and Citizens of another State; between Citizens of different States; between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.[7][8]


Article III did not define the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, but instead granted Congress the power to define the specific jurisdiction of the Court. As defined by the Judiciary Act of 1789, the Supreme Court court reviews:

  • By writ of error, judgments in civil actions of the circuit courts if the amount in question was more than $2,000.
  • State court decisions when federal authority was challenged.
  • Any case where a right, law or treaty of the United States was denied.[9]

The Court's original jurisdiction is narrowly focused, as defined in Article III, Section 2:

In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the Supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction.[7][8]

The Court's appellate jurisdiction encompasses all cases within the scope of Article III, but is subject to limitation by Act of Congress under the Exceptions Clause in Article III and by the discretion of the Court.[7]

Current jurisdiction

The Supreme Court holds both original and appellate jurisdiction, with its appellate jurisdiction accounting for most of the Court's caseload.

The federal courts may only entertain "cases" or "controversies." Therefore, the Court avoids deciding cases that are moot and does not render advisory opinions. This exception is not absolute; if an issue is "capable of repetition yet evading review," the Court will address it even though the party before the Court would not himself be made whole by a favorable result.

Number of justices

Number of Justices Set by Change
Chief Justice + 5 Associate Justices Judiciary Act of 1789
Chief Justice + 4 Associate Justices Judiciary Act of 1801 (later repealed)
Chief Justice + 6 Associate Justices Seventh Circuit Act of 1807
Chief Justice + 8 Associate Justices Eighth and Ninth Circuits Act of 1837
Chief Justice + 9 Associate Justices Tenth Circuit Act of 1863
Chief Justice + 6 Associate Justices Judicial Circuits Act of 1866
Chief Justice + 8 Associate Justices Judiciary Act of 1869

Politics and the number of seats

Judiciary Act of 1801

The first example of a political party attempting to shape the Court came with the Judiciary Act of 1801. After President Adams lost his bid for re-election in 1800, the Federalist-controlled Congress passed this Act, which reduced the number of Supreme Court justices by one with the next vacancy. The reduction of Supreme Court justices was intended to delay President Jefferson's chance to nominate someone to the court.[10]

Judicial Circuits Act of 1866

The only other time that the number of Supreme Court justices was reduced was with the Act of 1866. This Act can be viewed from two different perspectives. One, the passage of it eliminated three seats on the Supreme Court, nullifying the pending nomination of Henry Stanberry. Stanberry was the only justice nominated to the Court by President Andrew Johnson, who two years later was impeached by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.[11]

However, Johnson signed the legislation into law prior to his impeachment. According to the Federal Judicial Center, it was Chief Justice Salmon Chase who urged lawmakers to reduce the size of the Court in an attempt to increase the salaries of sitting justices.[11]

President Roosevelt's plan

One notable attempt to increase the number of Associate Justices came from President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who proposed the Judiciary Reorganization Bill of 1937. In what was seen as a blatant attempt to fill the court with more justices favorable to New Deal legislation, Roosevelt proposed appointing a new justice for every sitting justice over the age of 70. This would have amounted to six new justices at the time. Later, the Reorganization Bill was passed without the additional justice provision.[12]

United States Supreme Court


The original Court held two sessions per year, in February and August. The Judiciary Act of 1802 eliminated the separate sessions and instead dictated that there would be one session which started on the first Monday in February.[13]

In 1873, Congress changed the start of a new term to the second Monday in October. Forty-four years later, Congress moved the start of a new term to the first Monday in October to accommodate a growing docket.[14]

Until 1978, the Court had a formal recess in July and August, though it would reconvene for matters of national significance. Presently, the court recesses in June, but continues to work throughout the summer.[15]

Chief Justice eras

The Jay Court (1789-1795)

John Jay (Gilbert Stuart portrait).jpg


John Rutledge (1789-1791); James Wilson (1789-1798); John Blair (1790-1796); James Iredell (1790-1799); William Cushing (1790-1810); Thomas Johnson (1792-1793); William Paterson (1793-1806)


John Jay was a defining justice, not only as the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but also as a defender of national politics.[16] While on the court, Jay strengthened ties between England and the United States as the primary negotiator of the Jay Treaty.[17] Jay's tenure as Chief Justice paved the way for an established judiciary, from defining the jurisdiction of the federal courts to defining the authority of the Supreme Court.

More info

For more on this era, see The Jay Court.

The Rutledge Court (1795)

John Rutledge.jpg


James Wilson (1789-1798); John Blair (1790-1796); James Iredell (1790-1799); William Cushing (1790-1810); William Paterson (1793-1806)


With such a short tenure, Rutledge had little time to imprint his legacy on the history and courts of the United States. He was able to define jurisdiction over cases involving the high seas and United States citizenship, however.[18]

More info

For more on this era, see The Rutledge Court.

The Ellsworth Court (1796-1800)

Oliver Ellsworth.jpg


John Rutledge (1789-1791); James Wilson (1789-1798); James Iredell (1790-1799); William Cushing (1790-1810); William Paterson (1793-1806); Samuel Chase (1789-1811); Bushrod Washington (1798-1829); Alfred Moore (1799-1804)


The Ellsworth Court was both brief and important. It helped to establish the rights of the president, states, laws and court system. Decisions during the Ellsworth Court created the definition of ex post facto laws and clarified rights of the president. By determining that the president did not have the power to amend the Constitution, the Ellsworth Court ensured a stronger system of checks and balances and highlighted the importance of Congress.

More info

For more on this era, see The Ellsworth Court.

The Marshall Court (1801-1835)

John Marshall.png


William Cushing (1789-1810); William Paterson (1793-1806); Samuel Chase (1796-1811); Bushrod Washington (1798-1829); Alfred Moore (1799-1804); William Johnson, Jr. (1804-1834); Henry Brockholst Livingston (1807-1823); Thomas Todd (1807-1826); Gabriel Duvall (1811-1835); Joseph Story (1811-1845); Smith Thompson (1823-1843); Robert Trimble (1826-1828); Henry Baldwin (1830-1844); John McLean (1829-1861); James Moore Wayne (1835-1867)


The Marshall era saw the Supreme Court's supremacy as the highest court in the United States established. It affirmed that the Court had the power to review decisions made by the state courts. Furthermore, this era of the Supreme Court continued to clarify Congress' right to regulate interstate commerce and to establish a federal bank.

As Chief Justice, Marshall presided over some of the most storied and formative legal cases in American history. Among them were: Marbury v. Madison, McCulloch v. Maryland, Cohens v. Virginia, and Gibbons v. Ogden.

More info

For more on this era, see The Marshall Court.

The Taney Court (1836-1864)



Joseph Story (1811-1845); Smith Thompson (1823-1843); Henry Baldwin (1830-1844); John McLean (1829-1861); James Moore Wayne (1835-1867); Philip Pendelton Barbour (1836-1841); John Catron (1837-1865); John McKinley (1837-1852); Peter Vivian Daniel (1841-1860); Levi Woodbury (1846-1851); Samuel Nelson (1845-1872); Robert Cooper Grier (1846-1870); Benjamin Robbins Curtis (1851-1857); John Archibald Campbell (1853-1861); Nathan Clifford (1958-1881); Samuel Freeman Miller (1862-1890); David Davis (1862-1877); Noah Haynes Swayne (1862-1881); Stephen Johnson Field (1863-1897)


During Taney's tenure, the issue of slavery increased tensions across the nation, eventually leading to Civil War. Although Taney did not take a hard stance on the issue, he favored moderate states' rights.[19] Taney’s most historic cases stressed the notion of white supremacy, and for the most part, the power of states to regulate within their own territories. Taney strongly believed in his Dred Scott decision, writing to Franklin Pierce in 1857 that he believed with "abiding confidence that this act of my judicial life will stand the test of time and the sober judgment of the country."[19]

When Abraham Lincoln became president, he and Taney held different views on a number of issues of the day. Lincoln even went as far as disregarding a Taney decision that forbade the suspension of habeas corpus in Maryland during the Civil War. By the time of Taney's death in 1864, he was largely viewed as a villain and the Supreme Court felt the public's trust and respect declining.[19]

Overall, the Taney Court provided clarity when it came to states’ rights, defining their powers in relation to that of the federal government. Historically, the era of Taney as Chief Justice is most remembered for its rulings on inequality of the races.

More info

For more on this era, see The Taney Court.

The Chase Court (1864-1873)



James Moore Wayne (1835-1867); John Catron (1837-1865); Samuel Nelson (1845-1872); Robert Cooper Grier (1846-1870); Nathan Clifford (1858-1881); Samuel Freeman Miller (1863-1890); David Davis (1862-1877); Noah Haynes Swayne (1862-1881); Stephen Johnson Field (1863-1897); William Strong (1870-1880); Joseph Bradley (1870-1892); Ward Hunt (1872-1882)


This era of the Chase Court clarified the Reconstruction of the United States after the Civil War and continued to establish the rights of the federal government and the president over the states. The Court's major cases involved whether or not Reconstruction was constitutional. Their decisions led to the piecing together of the broken United States.

During Chase's tenure, he was involved in the turbulent politics of Andrew Johnson's presidency. Johnson's policies towards the Reconstruction Era South were lenient, and the Republican majority of Congress was not happy. In response, they passed the Tenure of Office Act in March of 1867. This Act prohibited the president from removing officials from office that had been confirmed by the Senate, without permission of the Senate. Despite this, Johnson attempted to replace the Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, with Ulysses S. Grant. The Supreme Court refused to rule on the case, but because of the protest, Grant returned the office to Stanton. Johnson was not satisfied, so he appointed General Lorenzo Thomas in place of Stanton. Three days later, Johnson was impeached by the House of Representatives.

President Johnson's impeachment trial began on March 13, 1867, in the Senate with the direction of Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase. On May 26, Johnson was acquitted of the charges.[20]

More info

For more on this era, see The Chase Court.

The Waite Court (1874-1888)

Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite, 1816-1917. Member of the committee who advised and assisted William Duncan in the... - NARA - 298108.jpg


Nathan Clifford (1858-1881); Samuel Freeman Miller (1862-1890); David Davis (1862-1877); Noah Haynes Swayne (1862-1881); Stephen Johnson Field (1863-1897); William Strong (1870-1880); Joseph Bradley (1870-1892); Ward Hunt (1872-1882); John Harlan I (1877-1889); William Burnham Woods (1880-1887); Stanley Matthews (1881-1889); Samuel Blatchford (1882-1893); Horace Gray (1881-1902); Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar (1888-1893)


In the post-Civil War United States, the Waite Court emphasized protections for corporations with the Fourteenth Amendment. Waite's restrictive tenure further decreased the rights of women and minorities in the United States, ultimately leaving a wake of prejudiced decisions that would take years to overcome.

More info

For more on this era, see The Waite Court.

The Fuller Court (1888-1910)



Samuel Freeman Miller (1862-1890); Stephen Johnson Field (1863-1897); Joseph Bradley (1870-1892); John Harlan I (1877-1889); Stanley Matthews (1881-1889); Samuel Blatchford (1882-1893); Horace Gray (1882-1902); Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar (1888-1893); David Josiah Brewer (1890-1910); Henry Billings Brown (U.S. Supreme Court) (1891-1906); George Shiras (1892-1903); Howell Edmunds Jackson (1893-1895); Rufus Wheeler Peckham (1896-1909); Joseph McKenna (1898-1925); Oliver Wendell Holmes (1902-1932); William Rufus Day (1903-1922); William Henry Moody (1906-1910); Horace Harmon Lurton (1910-1914)


Melville Fuller's Court often saw and decided cases based on the Fourteenth Amendment, defining its scope. Primarily, the Court was concerned with the Due Process and Equal Protection section of the Amendment. The two most notable cases of this era were Plessy v. Ferguson and Lochner v. New York. Both cases would go on to be overturned.

More info

For more on this era, see The Fuller Court.

The White Court (1910-1921)



John Harlan I (1877-1911); Joseph McKenna (1898-1925); Oliver Wendell Holmes (1902-1932); William Rufus Day (1903-1922); Horace Harmon Lurton (1910-1914); Joseph Rucker Lamar (1911-1916); Willis Van Devanter (1911-1937); Mahlon Pitney (1912-1922); James Clark McReynolds (1914-1941; John Hessin Clarke (1916-1922); Louis Brandeis (1916-1939)


The White Court examined the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in a number of cases in order to more fairly distribute wealth among companies. This Court also made decisions that would make it easier for black Americans to vote, though the right had already been established after the Civil War. Furthermore, this era saw the establishment of an eight-hour workday for railroad workers.

More info

For more on this era, see The White Court.

The Taft Court (1921-1930)



Joseph McKenna (1898-1925); Oliver Wendell Holmes (1902-1932); William Rufus Day (1903-1922); Willis Van Devanter (1911-1937; Mahlon Pitney (1912-1922); James Clark McReynolds (1914-1941); John Hessin Clarke (1916-1922); Louis Brandeis (1916-1939); George Sutherland (1922-1938); Edward Terry Sanford (1923-1930); Pierce Butler (1923-1939); Harlan Fiske Stone (1925-1941); Owen Josephus Roberts (1930-1945)


Taft's Court saw the continuation of a denial of protections for minorities. After women's suffrage, the Supreme Court subtly readjusted its approach to the class by shortening its protective reach, as seen in Adkins v. Children's Hospital. The decision Plessy v. Ferguson was upheld once again, relegating black Americans to second-class status, while the people of Puerto Rico were denied rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

More info

For more on this era, see The Taft Court.

The Hughes Court (1930-1941)



Oliver Wendell Holmes (1902-1932); Willis Van Devanter (1911-1937); James Clark McReynolds (1914-1941); Louis Brandeis (1916-1939); George Sutherland (1923-1930); Edward Terry Sanford (1923-1930); Pierce Butler (1923-1939); Owen Josephus Roberts (1930-1945); Benjamin Nathan Cardozo (1932-1938); Hugo Black (1937-1971); Stanley Reed (1938-1957); Felix Frankfurter (1939-1962); William Douglas (1939-1975); Frank Murphy (1940-1949); James Byrnes (1941-1942); Harlan Fiske Stone (1941-1946)


Charles Hughes left a unique legacy, serving as the swing vote on the Court during the New Deal Era. The Chief Justice sometimes sided with the "Four Horsemen" of the Supreme Court, conservative justices strictly opposed to the New Deal policies of Roosevelt, but Hughes was progressive on issues of race. He was respected as a prolific justice who authored more than double the opinions of anyone else serving on the court.[21][22][23]

More info

For more on this era, see The Hughes Court.

The Stone Court (1941-1946)



Owen Josephus Roberts (1930-1945); Hugo Black (1937-1971); Stanley Reed (1938-1957); Felix Frankfurter (1939-1962); William Douglas (1939-1975); Frank Murphy (1940-1949); James Byrnes (1941-1942); Robert H. Jackson (1941-1954); Wiley Rutledge (1943-1949); Harold Burton (1945-1958)


During Stone's tenure on the Court, he presided over the issues of World War II, creating new precedents for how to protect the United States and deal with enemies on United States soil. Though the Stone Court is remembered for constitutional questions decided, it was also marked by discord among the justices of the court.[24]

For more on this era, see The Stone Court.

The Vinson Court (1946-1953)

Frederick Vinson portrait.png


Hugo Black (1937-1971); Stanley Reed (1938-1957); Felix Frankfurter (1939-1962); William Douglas (1939-1975); Frank Murphy (1940-1949); Robert H. Jackson (1941-1954); Wiley Rutledge (1943-1949); Harold Burton (1945-1958); Tom Clark (1949-1967); Sherman Minton (1949-1956)


The era of the Frederick Vinson Court saw a change in the tides of racial segregation. With Vinson's sudden death, the most famous case of his tenure, Brown v. Board of Education, was not resolved until the Warren Court. Vinson's Court also went on to more carefully define acts of enemy aggression and the powers of the president.

More info

For more on this era, see The Vinson Court.

The Warren Court (1953-1969)



Hugo Black (1937-1971); Stanley Reed (1938-1957); Felix Frankfurter (1939-1962); William Douglas (1939-1975); Robert H. Jackson (1941-1954); Harold Burton (1945-1958); Sherman Minton (1949-1956); Tom Clark (1949-1967); John Harlan II (1955-1971); William Brennan (1956-1990); Charles Whittaker (1957-1962); Potter Stewart (1958-1981); Arthur Goldberg (1962-1965); Byron White (1962-1993); Abe Fortas (1965-1969); Thurgood Marshall (1967-1991)


The Warren Court saw a variety of notable cases. With this court, segregation was outlawed and public prayer began to decrease as a result of Engel v. Vitale. The court also established the rights of defendants and citizens.

More info

For more on this era, see The Warren Court.

The Burger Court (1969-1986)

Warren e burger photo.jpeg


Hugo Black (1937-1971); William Douglas (1939-1975); John Harlan II (1955-1971); William Brennan (1956-1990); Potter Stewart (1958-1981); Byron White (1962-1993); Thurgood Marshall (1967-1991); Harry Blackmun (1970-1994); Lewis Powell (1972-1987); John Paul Stevens (1975-2010); Sandra Day O'Connor (1981-2006)


Burger's conservative philosophy did not significantly shift the composition of the Supreme Court. According to PBS, Burger's opinions "were often unpredictable and uninspiring," leading to an inability to construct a cohesive legacy.[25]

Several significant decisions were made during the Burger Court, however, including those leading to the resignation of President Nixon from the office of the presidency. Other notable cases include Roe v. Wade and Furman v. Georgia, both of which have been challenged and used as precedent in a myriad of cases.

More info

For more on this era, see The Burger Court.

The Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)

William Rehnquist.jpg


William Brennan (1956-1990); Byron White (1962-1993); Thurgood Marshall (1967-1991); Harry Blackmun (1970-1994); Lewis Powell (1972-1987); John Paul Stevens (1975-2010); Sandra Day O'Connor (1981-2006); Antonin Scalia (1986-Present); Anthony Kennedy (1986-Present), David Souter (1990-2009); Clarence Thomas (1991-Present); Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1994-Present)


Chief Justice Rehnquist was a conservative, and helped usher in the Court's "new right" majority. During the Rehnquist Era, the Court narrowed the reach of decisions of the Warren Court and the Burger Court. During his tenure as Chief Justice, Rehnquist also presided over President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial and Bush v. Gore.[26]

More info

For more on this era, see The Rehnquist Court.

List of all Supreme Court justices

Supreme Court justiceTerm dates
Former Justice Abe Fortas8/11/1965-5/14/1969
Former Justice Alfred Moore (U.S. Supreme Court)12/10/1799-1/26/1804
Associate justice Anthony Kennedy2/17/1988-Present
Associate justice Antonin Scalia9/26/1986-Present
Former Justice Arthur Goldberg9/28/1962-/26/1965
Former Justice Benjamin Nathan Cardozo3/2/1932-7/9/1938
Former Justice Benjamin Robbins Curtis12/20/1851-9/30/1857
Former Justice Bushrod Washington12/20/1798 - 11/26/1829
Former Justice Byron White1962-1993
Former Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes2/13/1930-6/30/1941
Former Justice Charles Whittaker3/22/1957-3/31/1962
Associate justice Clarence Thomas (U.S. Supreme Court)7/1/1991-Present
Former Justice David Davis (U.S. Supreme Court)10/17/1862-3/4/1877
Former Justice David Josiah Brewer3/31/1884-1/6/1890
Former Justice David Souter10/3/1990-6/30/2009
Former Chief Justice Earl Warren3/20/1954-6/23/1969
Former Chief Justice Edward Douglass White12/12/1910-5/19/1921
Former Justice Edward Terry Sanford1/29/1923-3/8/1930
Associate justice Elena Kagan8/7/2010-Present
Former Justice Felix Frankfurter1/20/1939-8/28/1962
Former Justice Frank Murphy1/16/1940-7/19/1949
Former Chief Justice Frederick Vinson6/21/1946-9/8/1953
Former Justice Gabriel Duvall11/18/1811-1/12/1835
Former Justice George Shiras7/26/1892-2/23/1903
Former Justice George Sutherland1922-1938
Former Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone7/3/1941-4/22/1946
Former Justice Harold Burton1945-1964
Former Justice Harry Blackmun5/14/1970-8/3/1994
Former Justice Henry Baldwin1/6/1830-4/21/1844
Former Justice Henry Billings Brown (U.S. Supreme Court)12/29/1890-5/28/1906
Former Justice Henry Brockholst Livingston1/16/1807-3/18/1823
Former Justice Horace Gray12/20/1881-9/15/1902
Former Justice Horace Harmon Lurton12/20/1909-7/12/1914
Former Justice Howell Edmunds Jackson2/18/1893-8/8/1895
Former Justice Hugo Black8/18/1937-9/17/1971
Former Justice James Byrnes6/25/1941-10/3/1942
Former Justice James Clark McReynolds8/29/1914-1/31/1941
Former Justice James Iredell2/10/1790-10/20/1799
Former justice James Moore Wayne1/9/1835-7/5/1867
Former Justice James Wilson (U.S. Supreme Court)9/29/1789-8/21/1798
Former Justice John Archibald Campbell3/22/1853-4/30/1861
Former Justice John Blair (Supreme Court)9/30/1789-10/25/1795
Former Justice John Catron3/8/1837-5/30/1865
Former Justice John Harlan I11/29/1877-10/14/1911
Former Judge John Harlan II3/27/1955-9/23/1971
Former Judge John Hessin Clarke7/24/1916-9/18/1922
Former Chief Justice John Jay9/26/1789-6/29/1795
Former Chief Justice John Marshall (Supreme Court)1/31/1801-7/6/1835
Former Justice John McKinley4/22/1837-7/19/1852
Former Justice John McLean3/7/1829-4/4/1861
Former Justice John Paul Stevens12/17/1975-6/30/2010
Chief justice John Roberts (Supreme Court)9/29/2005-Present
Former Judge John Rutledge (Supreme Court)9/26/1789-3/5/1791, 7/1/1795-12/28/1795
Former Justice Joseph Bradley3/21/1870-1/22/1892
Former Justice Joseph McKenna (Supreme Court)1/21/1897-1/5/1925
Former Justice Joseph Rucker Lamar12/17/1910-1/2/1916
Former Justice Joseph Story11/18/1811-9/10/1845
Former Justice Levi Woodbury1/3/1846-9/4/1851
Former Justice Lewis Powell12/9/1971-6/26/1987
Former Justice Louis Brandeis6/1/1916-2/13/1939
Seat #4 Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar1/16/1888 - 1/23/1893
Former Justice Mahlon Pitney2/19/1912-12/31/1922
Former Chief Justice Melville Weston Fuller7/20/1888-7/4/1910
Former Chief Justice Morrison Waite1/21/1874-3/23/1888
Former Justice Nathan Clifford1/12/1858-7/25/1881
Former Justice Noah Haynes Swayne1/24/1862-1/24/1881
Former Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth3/4/1796-9/30/1800
Former Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes12/4/1902-1/12/1932
Former Justice Owen Josephus Roberts5/20/1930-7/31/1945
Former Justice Peter Vivian Daniel3/3/1841-5/31/1860
Former Justice Philip Pendelton Barbour3/15/1836-2/15/1841
Former Justice Pierce Butler12/21/1922-11/16/1939
Former Justice Potter Stewart1958-1985
Former Justice Robert Cooper Grier8/4/1846-1/31/1870
Former Justice Robert H. Jackson1941-1954
Former Justice Robert Trimble5/9/1826-8/25/1828
Former Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney3/15/1836-10/12/1864
Former Justice Rufus Wheeler Peckham12/9/1895-10/24/1909
Associate justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg8/5/1993-Present
Former Chief Justice Salmon Portland Chase12/6/1864 - 5/7/1873
Associate justice Samuel Alito1/31/2006-Present
Former Justice Samuel Blatchford3/22/1882-7/7/1893
Former Justice Samuel Chase1/27/1796-6/19/1811
Former Justice Samuel Freeman Miller7/16/1862-10/13/1890
Former Justice Samuel Nelson2/13/1845-11/28/1872
Former justice Sandra Day O'Connor9/25/1981-1/31/2006
Former Justice Sherman Minton10/5/1949-10/15/1956
Former Justice Smith Thompson12/9/1823-12/18/1843
Associate justice Sonia Sotomayor8/6/2009-Present
Former Justice Stanley Matthews5/12/1881-3/22/1889
Former Justice Stanley Reed1/27/1938-2/25/1957
Associate justice Stephen Breyer8/3/1994-Present
Former Justice Stephen Johnson Field3/10/1863-12/1/1897
Former Justice Thomas Johnson (U.S. Supreme Court)11/7/1791-1/16/1793
Former Justice Thomas Todd (U.S. Supreme Court)3/3/1807-2/7/1826
Former Judge Thurgood Marshall8/30/1967-10/1/1991
Former justice Tom Clark1949-1967
Former Justice Ward Hunt12/11/1872-1/27/1882
Former Chief Justice Warren Burger6/23/1969-9/26/1986
Former Justice Wiley Rutledge2/11/1943-9/10/1949
Former Justice William Brennan (U.S. Supreme Court)3/21/1957-7/20/1990
Former Justice William Burnham Woods12/21/1880-5/14/1887
Associate Justice William Cushing9/27/1789 - 9/13/1810
Former Justice William Douglas4/15/1939 - 11/12/1975
Former Justice William Henry Moody12/12/1906 - 11/19/1910
Former Chief Justice William Howard Taft6/30/1921-2/3/1930
Former Justice William Johnson, Jr.3/26/1804-8/4/1834
Former Justice William Paterson3/4/1793-9/9/1806
Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist9/25/1986-9/3/2005
Former Justice William Rufus Day2/19/1903-11/13/1922
Former Justice William Strong2/18/1870-12/14/1880
Former Associate Justice Willis Van Devanter12/16/1910-6/2/1937


Time City Building About the location
February 1-10, 1790 and August 2-3, 1790 New York City Royal Exchange Building The Court held its first two sessions when New York City was the nation's capital. The building was an open air market on the first floor; justices met on the second floor.
February 1791 Philadelphia Independence Hall (then the Pennsylvania State House) The Court convened here for just two days, since there were no cases on the docket.
August 1791-1800 Philadelphia Old City Hall (then City Hall) The U.S. Congress and the Supreme Court shared a location, meeting in the West Wing and East Wing, respectively.
February 1801-1810 Washington, D.C. Various rooms in the U.S. Capitol During this decade, the Court met in various rooms of the United States Capitol.
1810-1860 Washington, D.C. Basement of the North Wing in the U.S. Capitol In 1810, the Supreme Court met in various rooms in the Old North Wing of the Capitol. Throughout this period, when the building was under construction or when the building was burned by the British during the War of 1812, the Court convened in homes or taverns.
1861-1935 Washington, D.C. Old Senate Chamber The Supreme Court took over the Old Senate Chamber in 1861. Its previous meeting area became a shared law library for the Congress and Court. Though the Court now had a designated courtroom, justices and their staff did not have office spaces.
1935-present Washington, D.C. The Supreme Court building The cornerstone of the Supreme Court building was laid in 1932 and the court moved into its permanent location in 1935. President, and later, Chief Justice William Howard Taft was integral to the creation of the building, lobbying for its existence since 1912. Though Charles Evans Hughes presided over the court upon the building's completion, he credited Taft, saying, "This building is the result of his intelligent persistence."[27]

See also

External links


  1. Article III
  2. Federal Judicial Center, Landmark Judicial Legislation: The Judiciary Act of 1789
  3. John Jay
  4. 4.0 4.1 History.com, This Day in History, September 24, 1789: The First Supreme Court
  5. ABAJournal, "February 2, 1790: Supreme Court Holds Inaugural Session," February 1, 2011
  6. The Free Legal Dictionary, Harrison, Robert Hanson Harrison
  7. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named overview
  8. 8.0 8.1 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  9. Federal Judicial Center, Appellate Jurisdiction in the Federal Courts, U.S. Circuit Courts
  10. Digital History, War on the Judiciary
  11. 11.0 11.1 Federal Judicial Center, Landmark Judicial Legislation, Reorganization of the Judicial Circuits
  12. United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Recess Reading: An Occasional Feature From The Judiciary Committee, "Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "Court Packing" Plan"
  13. Federal Judicial Center, Landmark Judicial Legislation, "The Judiciary Act of 1802"
  14. Google Books, The Encyclopedia of the Supreme Court by David Shultz, page 164
  15. The Supreme Court of the United States, The Courts and Its Procedures
  16. Columbia University, Jay Biography
  17. Oyez.org, John Jay
  18. Constitutional Law Reporter, John Rutledge
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 PBS.org, Biographies of the Robes: Roger Taney
  20. History.com, President Andrew Johnson is Impeached
  21. PBS.org, Biographies of the Robes: Charles Evans Hughes
  22. Encyclopedia Britannica, Charles Evans Hughes
  23. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named oyez
  24. Encyclopedia Britannica, Harlan Fiske Stone
  25. PBS.org, Biographies of the Robes: Warren Earl Burger
  26. PBS.org, Biographies of the Robes: William Hubbs Rehnquist
  27. 27.0 27.1 The Supreme Court Historical Society, Home of the Court
  28. The Supreme Court of the United States, Frequently Asked Questions