You are here
Landmark Legislation: Eighth and Ninth Circuits
5 Stat. 176
March 3, 1837
As state after state entered the Union in the years following the establishment of the Seventh Circuit in 1807, Congress made no changes in the organization of the judicial circuits except in 1820 when it placed the newly-admitted state of Maine in the First Circuit. In each of the eight western states admitted between 1812 and 1837, Congress established a district court with the authority to exercise the trial jurisdiction of circuit courts. The federal courts in the western states, each with a single judge, became overburdened with cases, many of them involving complicated issues related to land claims. By the 1820s, Congress faced growing demands that these states receive the same access to the courts of the United States as states that were within a circuit. Presidents John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson repeatedly urged the creation of new circuits. In 1829, in his first annual message, Jackson reminded Congress that one-fourth of the nation was without access to a circuit court, the principal trial court of the federal judiciary. In 1836 and 1837, two more states entered the Union without being included within a circuit. On several occasions in the 1820s and '30s, one house of Congress approved a bill for a new circuit and an additional seat on the Supreme Court, but parties opposing the president defeated the legislation in order to deprive the chief executive of an additional Supreme Court appointee. Finally in 1837, Congress approved the establishment of two additional circuits and two new seats on the Supreme Court. Once again, Congress increased the size of the Supreme Court to support the circuit court system rather than in response to the caseload of the high Court itself.
The legislation of 1837 organized the circuits west of the Appalachians to facilitate the travel of the justices through territory where roads and accommodations were often still rudimentary. Congress reorganized the Seventh Circuit to include Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio; Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri formed the Eighth Circuit; and the Ninth Circuit consisted of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Although the act had not imposed a residency requirement on the new justices, both appointees, John Catron of Tennessee and John McKinley of Alabama, lived in the circuit to which they were assigned as circuit justice. The act made certain exceptions for the travel requirements of the justices by excluding one district and two meeting places from the circuit system that otherwise incorporated every state. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana as well as the district court for the Northern District of New York when meeting at Utica and that of the Western District of Pennsylvania when meeting in Williamsport continued to exercise the trial jurisdiction of the circuit courts. In the following years, Congress allowed further exceptions as some justices found it difficult to travel twice a year to all of the districts within their assigned circuits.
Curtis Nettels. "The Mississippi Valley and the Federal Judiciary, 1807-1837." Mississippi Valley Historical Review , 12(September 1925): 202-26.
5 Stat. 176
March 3, 1837
CHAP. XXXIV.--.An Act supplementary to the act entitled "An act to amend the judicial system of the United States.(a)
Be it enacted, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Supreme Court of the United States shall hereafter consist of a chief justice, and eight associate judges, any five of whom shall constitute a quorum; and for this purpose there shall be appointed two additional justices of said court, with the like powers, and to take the same oaths, perform the same duties, and be entitled to the same salary, as the other associate judges.
Hereafter, the districts of Vermont, Connecticut, and New York, shall constitute the second circuit; the district of New Jersey, the eastern and western districts of Pennsylvania, shall constitute the third circuit; the district of Maryland and the district of Delaware shall constitute the fourth circuit; the districts of Virginia and the district of North Carolina shall constitute the fifth circuit; the districts of South Carolina and Georgia shall constitute the sixth circuit; the districts of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan, shall constitute the seventh circuit; and the circuit courts shall be held at Columbus, in the
Ohio district, on the third Mondays in May, and December; at Detroit, in the Michigan district, on the fourth Monday in June; at Indianapolis, in the Indiana district, on the first Monday in December; at Vandalia, in the Illinois district, on the last Monday in November, in each year; the districts of Kentucky, east and west Tennessee, and Missouri, shall form and be called the eighth circuit; and the districts of Alabama, the eastern district of Louisiana, the district of Mississippi, and the district of Arkansas, shall form and be called the ninth circuit.
SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That the sessions of said circuit courts shall be held twice in each year in the following districts, to wit: commencing in the eastern district of Louisiana, at New Orleans, on the third Monday of May and on the third Monday of November, annually; in the district of Mississippi, at Jackson, on the first Monday of May and on the first Monday of November, annually; in the southern district of Alabama, at Mobile, on the second Monday of April and the second Monday of October, annually; in the western district of
Pennsylvania, at Pittsburg, on the third Mondays of May and November, annually; in the district of Delaware, at Newcastle on the Tuesday next following the fourth Monday of May, and at Dover on the Tuesday next following the third Monday of October, annually; and in the district of Maryland, at Baltimore, on the first Monday of April and the first Monday of October, annually; in the northern district of New York, at Albany, on the second Tuesday of June and the third Tuesday of October, annually; and there shall be holden a term of said circuit courts, annually, at Lewisburg, in the western district of Virginia, commencing on the first Monday of August; at Huntsville, in the northern district of Alabama, commencing on the first Monday of June; at St. Louis, in the district of
Missouri, commencing on the first Monday of April; and at Little Rock, in the district of Arkansas, on the fourth Monday of March; and that no process, recognizance, or bail bond, returnable to the next term of either of said courts, shall be avoided or impaired, or affected by this change, as to the commencement of said term; but that all process, bail bonds, and recognizances returnable to the next term of either of said courts, shall be returnable and returned to the court next held, according to this act, in the same manner as if so made returnable on the face thereof, and shall have full effect accordingly; and that all continuances in either of said courts shall be from the last term to the court appointed by this act, and the day herein appointed for the commencement of the next session thereof:
Provided, That nothing herein contained shall prevent the judge of the northern district of New York from holding the courts at Utica, nor the judge of the western district of Pennsylvania from holding the courts at Williamsport, at the same time and with the same power and jurisdiction as heretofore.
SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That so much of any act or acts of Congress as vests in the district courts of the United States for the districts of Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, the eastern district of Louisiana, the district of Mississippi, the northern district of New York, the western district of Virginia, and the western district of Pennsylvania, and the districts of Alabama, or either of them, the power and jurisdiction of circuit courts, be, and the same is hereby, repealed; and there shall hereafter be circuit courts held for said districts by the chief or associate justices of the
Supreme Court, assigned or allotted to the circuit to which such districts may respectively belong, and the district judges of such districts severally and respectively; either of whom shall constitute a quorum; which circuit courts, and the judges thereof, shall have like powers and exercise like jurisdiction as other circuit courts and the judges thereof; and the said district courts, and the judges thereof, shall have like powers and exercise like jurisdiction as the district courts, and the judges thereof, in the other circuits.
From all judgments and decrees, rendered in the district courts of the United States for the western district of Louisiana, writs of error and appeals shall lie to the circuit court in the other district in said State, in the same manner as from decrees and judgments rendered in the districts within which a circuit court is provided by this act.
SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That all actions, suits, prosecutions, causes, pleas, process, and other proceedings, relative to any cause, civil or criminal, (which might have been brought, and could have been, originally, cognizable in a circuit court,) now pending in, or returnable to, the several district courts of Indiana, Illinois,
Missouri, Mississippi, Arkansas, Michigan, the eastern district of Louisiana, the districts of Alabama, the northern district of New York, the western district of Pennsylvania, and western district of Virginia, acting as circuit courts on the first day of April next, shall be, and are hereby declared to be, respectively transferred, returnable, and continued to, the several circuit courts constituted by this act, to be holden within the said districts respectively; and shall be heard, tried and determined therein, in the same manner as if originally brought, entered, prosecuted, or had, in such circuit courts.
And the said circuit courts shall be governed by the same laws and regulations as apply to the other circuit courts of the United States; and the clerks of the said courts, respectively, shall perform the same duties, and shall be entitled to receive the same fees and emoluments, which are by law established for the clerks of the other circuit courts of the United States. The allotment of their chief justice and the associate justices of the said Supreme Court to the several circuits shall be made as heretofore.
SEC. 5. And be it further enacted, That all acts and provisions inconsistent with this act be, and the same are hereby, repealed.
APPROVED, March 3, 1837.