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Congress and the Courts: Committees on the Judiciary

As the Senate and the House of Representatives came to rely on standing committees to consider legislative proposals and draft bills, they established judiciary committees that could specialize in legislation related to the federal courts. The chairs of the committees in both houses of Congress have played a critical role in shaping judicial legislation, and the Senate committee chairs have had a special responsibility for the process of confirming presidential nominations of judges.

Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate
The Senate established the Committee on the Judiciary in 1816 as one of its original standing committees. Since then the committee has been responsible for reporting to the full Senate on legislation regarding the structure, administration, jurisdiction, and proceedings of the federal courts, as well as legislation related to the service of federal judges. Throughout the nineteenth century, the Committee on the Judiciary frequently considered petitions and other appeals for additional judgeships, new district courts, changes in the meeting places of federal courts, and increases in judicial salaries. The committee has played a central role in drafting the legislation establishing independent administrative agencies for the judiciary in the twentieth century. Since 1868, the Senate Judiciary Committee has been responsible for the initial consideration of the nominations of federal judges and justices of the Supreme Court.

Committee chairs:

1816-1817, Dudley Chase (Dem. Rep., Vermont)
1817-1818, John J. Crittenden (Dem. Rep., Kentucky)
1818-1819, James Burrill, Jr. (Rhode Island)
1819-1823, William Smith (South Carolina)
1823-1828, Martin Van Buren (New York)
1828-1829, John Macpherson Berrien (Georgia)
1829-1831, John Rowan (Kentucky)
1831-1832, William Marcy (New York)
1832-1833, William Wilkins (Pennsylvania)
1833-1836, John Clayton (Delaware)
1836-1838, Felix Grundy (Tennessee)
1838-1841, Garret D. Wall (D-New Jersey)
1841-1845, John Macpherson Berrien (Whig, Georgia)
1845-1847, Chester Ashley (D, Arkansas)
1847-1857, Andrew Butler (D, South Carolina)
1857-1861, James Bayard, Jr. (D, Delaware)
1861-1872, Lyman Trumbull (R, Illinois)
1872-1879, George Edmunds (R, Vermont)
1879-1881, Allen G. Thurman (D, Ohio)
1881-1891, George Edmunds (R, Vermont)
1891-1893, George F. Hoar (R, Massachusetts)
1893-1895, James Pugh (D, Alabama)
1895-1904, George F. Hoar (R, Massachusetts)
1905, Orville Platt (R, Connecticut)
1905-1912, Clarence D. Clark (R, Wyoming)
1912-1919, Charles A. Culberson (D, Texas)
1919-1923, Knute Nelson (R, Minnesota)
1923-1924, Frank B. Brandegee (R, Connecticut)
1924-1926, Albert B. Cummins (R, Iowa)
1926-1933, George W. Norris (R, Nebraska)
1933-1941, Henry F. Ashurst (D, Arizona)
1941-1945, Frederick Van Nuys (D, Indiana)
1945-1947, Pat McCarran (D, Nevada)
1947-1949, Alexander Wiley (R, Wisconsin)
1949-1953, Pat McCarran (D, Nevada)
1953-1955, William Langer (R, North Dakota)
1955-1956, Harley M. Kilgore (D, West Virginia)
1956-1978, James O. Eastland (D, Mississippi)
1979-1981, Edward M. Kennedy (D, Massachusetts)
1981-1987, Strom Thurmond (R, South Carolina)
1987-1995, Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D, Delaware)
1995-2001, Orrin G. Hatch, (R, Utah)
2001-2003, Patrick J. Leahy, (D, Vermont)
2003-2005, Orrin G. Hatch, (R, Utah)
2005-2007, Arlen Specter, (R, Pennsylvania)
2007-2015, Patrick J. Leahy, (D, Vermont)
2015-2019, Charles E. Grassley (R, Iowa)
2019-2021, Lindsey O. Graham (R, South Carolina)
2021-         , Dick Durbin (D, Illinois)

Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives
The House of Representatives established a standing Committee on the Judiciary in 1813. Since that date, the Committee on the Judiciary has reported to the full House of Representatives on most legislation regarding the structure of the federal courts and the service of judges. Because of the House of Representatives' constitutional responsibility for impeachment, the House Judiciary Committee has played an important role in investigations of judicial misconduct and the impeachment of federal judges.

Committee chairs:

1813-1815, Charles Jared Ingersoll, (Dem. Rep., Pennsylvania)
1815-1819, Hugh Nelson, (Dem. Rep., Virginia)
1819-1822, John Sergeant, (Pennsylvania)
1822-1823, Hugh Nelson, (Virginia)
1823-1827, Daniel Webster, (Massachusetts)
1827-1829, Philip Pendleton Barbour, (Virginia)
1829-1831, James Buchanan, (Pennsylvania)
1831-1833, Warren R. Davis, (South Carolina)
1833-1835, Thomas F. Foster, (Georgia)
1835-1836, Samuel Beardsley, (New York)
1836-1839, Francis Thomas, (Maryland)
1839-1841, John Sergeant, (Pennsylvania)
1841-1843, Daniel D. Barnard, (Whig, New York)
1843-1844, William Wilkins, (D, Pennsylvania)
1844-1845, Romulus M. Saunders, (D, North Carolina)
1845-1847, George O. Rathbun, (D, New York)
1847-1849, Joseph R. Ingersoll, (Whig, Pennsylvania)
1849-1851, James Thompson, (D, Pennsylvania)
1851-1853, James X. McLanahan, (D, Pennsylvania)
1853-1855, Frederick P. Stanton, (D, Tennessee)
1855-1857, George A. Simmons, (Whig, New York)
1857-1859, George S. Houston, (D, Alabama)
1859-1863, John Hickman (R, Pennsylvania)
1863-1869, James F. Wilson (R, Iowa)
1869-1873, John A. Bingham, (R, Ohio)
1873-1875, Benjamin F. Butler, (R, Massachusetts)
1875-1881, James P. Knott, (D, Kentucky)
1881-1883, Thomas B. Reed, (R, Maine)
1883-1887, John R. Tucker, (D, Virginia)
1887-1889, David B. Culberson, (D, Texas)
1889-1891, Ezra B. Taylor, (R, Ohio)
1891-1895, David B. Culberson, (D, Texas)
1895-1899, David B. Henderson, (R, Iowa)
1899-1903, George W. Ray, (R, New York)
1903-1909, John J. Jenkins, (R, Wisconsin)
1909-1911, Richard W. Parker, (R, New Jersey)
1911-1914, Henry D. Clayton, (D, Alabama)
1914-1919, Edwin Y. Webb, (D, North Carolina)
1919-1923, Andrew J. Volstead, (R, Minnesota)
1923-1931, George S. Graham, (R, Pennsylvania)
1931-1947, Hatton W. Sumners, (D, Texas)
1947-1949, Earl C. Michener, (R, Michigan)
1949-1953, Emanuel Celler, (D, New York)
1953-1955, Chauncey W. Reed, (R, Illinois)
1955-1973, Emanuel Celler, (D, New York)
1973-1989, Peter W. Rodino, Jr., (D, New Jersey)
1989-1995, Jack B. Brooks, (D, Texas)
1995-2001, Henry J. Hyde, (R, Illinois)
2001-2007, F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R, Wisconsin)
2007-2011, John Conyers, Jr. (D, Michigan)
2011-2013, Lamar Smith (R, Texas)
2013-2019, Robert W. Goodlatte (R, Virginia)
2019- 2023, Jerrold L. Nadler (D, New York)
2023-          , Jim Jordan (R, Ohio)