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Circuit Judges Act

April 10, 1869

During Reconstruction, Congress established separate circuit judgeships for the first time since the 1801 judgeships were abolished. The legislation eased the burden of circuit riding, as Supreme Court justices were now required to attend the courts in their circuit only once every two years. The provision of new judges for the U.S. circuit courts also allowed the Supreme Court and the U.S. district courts to better manage their increasing caseloads. After a fluctuation in the size of the Supreme Court during which the number of authorized seats changed from nine to ten to seven, the 1869 act reestablished a Court with nine members to match the number of circuits established by the 1866 reorganization. The act also created the first provision allowing federal judges to retire while continuing to receive their salaries.

Timeline: 
The Structure of the Federal Courts