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Landmark Legislation: Seventh Circuit
2 Stat. 420
February 24, 1807
For the first time since the establishment of the federal judiciary in 1789, the Congress in 1807 increased the number of justices on the Supreme Court. The act authorizing the appointment of a seventh justice came in response to the geographic expansion of the nation and the increased caseload of the district courts in the west. The act established a Seventh Circuit, consisting of Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, and specified that the new justice be assigned to preside over the U.S. circuit courts within that circuit. In an effort to insure attendance at the circuit courts, which met twice a year in each district, Congress required that the new justice reside within the circuit as well. The act was the first in a series increasing the size of the Supreme Court to accommodate new circuits formed from recently admitted states, although no such residency requirement was ever applied to another Supreme Court seat.
When it organized judicial districts in Kentucky in 1789, in Tennessee in 1797, and in Ohio in 1803, Congress determined that Supreme Court justices would be unable to attend regular circuit court sessions in these areas west of the Appalachian Mountains. The organizing statutes for these districts authorized the U.S. district courts to exercise the trial jurisdiction of U.S. circuit courts while the Supreme Court would have jurisdiction over appeals from the district court. As the volume of federal cases in the western districts increased and land claims prompted complicated diversity suits, various groups appealed to Congress to incorporate these western states in the same judicial structure found along the eastern seaboard.
The act provided that as of May 1, 1807, all proceedings properly the jurisdiction of a circuit court would be transferred from the district courts in the three states to the respective circuit court.
2 Stat. 420
February 24, 1807
CHAP. XVI.-An Act establishing Circuit Courts, and abridging the jurisdiction of the district courts of Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That so much of any act or acts of Congress, as vests in the district courts of the United States, in the districts of Kentucky, East and West Tennessee and Ohio, the powers, authority and jurisdiction of the circuit courts of the United States, shall be, and the same is hereby repealed.
SEC. 2. Be it further enacted, That for the purpose of holding therein the circuit courts, to be established by this act; the state of Kentucky shall constitute one district, the state of Tennessee one district, and the state of Ohio one district, and the said districts of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio, shall constitute and be denominated the seventh circuit. And there shall be holden annually in each district of the said circuit, two courts, to be called circuit courts, and to consist of one justice of the supreme court of the United States, and the judge of the district where such court shall be holden. And the sessions of the said courts, in the district of Kentucky, shall be held at Frankfort, and commence on the first Monday in May and November, annually; in the district of Tennessee, at Knoxville and Nashville, alternately, to commence on the first Monday in June and third Monday in October, annually, beginning at Nashville; and in the district of Ohio, at Chilicothe, to commence on the first Monday in January and September, annually. And the circuit court of Tennessee, shall designate at which of the two places where the said court is hereby directed to be holden, the office of clerk thereof shall be kept.
SEC. 3. Be it further enacted, That all the authority, powers and jurisdiction, vested in the several circuit courts of the United States, or the judges thereof, or either of them, shall be, and hereby are vested in, and may be exercised by the several circuit courts of the seventh circuit, and the judges thereof: and that all actions, causes, pleas, process, and other proceedings, relative to any cause, civil or criminal, which shall be returnable to, or depending in the several district courts of Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio, acting as circuit courts, on the first day of May next, shall be, and hereby are declared to be respectively transferred, returnable, and continued, to the several circuit courts constituted by this act, at the times herein appointed for the session of each of the said courts, and shall be heard, tried, and determined therein, in the same manner, and with the same effect, as if no change, had been made hereby in the courts of the said district. And, the said circuit courts of the seventh circuit, shall be governed by the same laws and regulations as apply to the other circuit courts of the United States, and shall appoint clerks for the said courts respectively, who shall reside, and keep the records of the said courts, at the places of holding the courts, whereto they shall respectively belong, except as herein before provided, and shall perform the same duties, and be entitled to, and receive the same emoluments and fees, respectively, which are by law established for the clerks of the other circuit courts of the United States.
SEC. 4. Be it further enacted, That the state of Tennessee shall be divided into two districts, for the purpose of holding district courts in the same, one to consist of that part thereof, which by the laws of the said state, now forms the districts of Washington and Hamilton, which shall be called the district of East Tennessee; and one other to consist of all that part of the state of Tennessee, which by the laws of the said state now forms the districts of Winchester, Mero and Robertson, which shall be called the district of West Tennessee; and all the authority, powers and jurisdiction, vested in the several district courts of the United States, and the judges thereof, in those districts in which circuit courts are now held, shall be retained, and may be exercised by the several district courts of Kentucky, East and West Tennessee, and Ohio, and the several judges thereof. And the sessions of the said district courts shall, after the first day of May next, be as follows: in Kentucky, at Frankfort, two sessions, to commence on the first Mondays in June and December, annually; in East Tennessee, at Knoxville, two sessions, to commence on the third Monday in April and second Monday in October, annually; and at Nashville, two sessions, to commence on the fourth Mondays in May and November, annually; and in Ohio, at Chilicothe, three sessions, to commence on the first Mondays in February, June and October, annually; and all actions, causes, pleas, process, and other proceedings, relative to any cause, civil or criminal, which shall have been issued, and shall be returnable to, or depending in the said several district courts of the United States, acting as district courts, on the said first day of May next, shall be returned and held continued to the said several district courts, respectively, at the times herein before appointed for holding the same.
SEC. 5. Be it further enacted, That the supreme court of the United States shall hereafter consist of a chief justice, and six associate justices, any law to (the) contrary notwithstanding. And for this purpose there shall be appointed a sixth associate justice, to reside in the seventh circuit, whose duty it shall be, until he is otherwise allotted, to attend the circuit courts of the said seventh circuit, and the supreme court of the United States, and who shall take the same oath, and be entitled to the same salary as are required of, and provided for the other associate justices of the United States.
APPROVED, February 24, 1807.