Supreme Court Justices to the United States Senate and House of Representatives
[Philadelphia, c.18 Feb. 1794]
The Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, respectfully represent to the Congress of the United States,
That their Representation communicated, last year, thro’ the President, to both Houses of Congress, and to which they refer; comprehended few other remarks than such as were suggested by the personal difficulties to which the Judges were subjected.1
They acknowledge, with Sensibility and Gratitude, that the Act which, thereupon, passed, and, whereby the attendance of one Judge only was made indispensible to the holding of a Circuit Court, afforded them great relief, and enabled them to pass more time at home and in studies made necessary by their official duties.2
They think it incumbent on them to submit to the Consideration of Congress, whether the sessions of the several Courts, comprehended in any of the three Circuits, ought to depend entirely on the Health of the Judge to whom either of them may be assigned; for, in Case, by accident or Illness his attendance should be prevented, the Inconveniencies and useless expences to all the parties would certainly be great as well as obvious.
It has already happened, in more than one Instance, that different Judges sitting at different times in the same Court but in similar Causes have decided in direct opposition to each other, and that in cases in which the parties could not, as the Law now stands, have the benefit of Writs of Error.3 They, therefore, also submit to the Consideration of Congress, whether this Evil, naturally tending to render the Law unsettled and uncertain, and thereby to create apprehensions and diffidence in the public mind, does not require the Interposition of Congress.4
They fear it would not become them to take a minute View of the whole system, and to suggest the Alterations which to them appear requisite; and their Hesitation is increased by the reflexion, that some of those Alterations would, from the nature of them, be capable of being ascribed to personal Considerations.
DS, DNA: RG 46, Fourth Congress, 1795–97, Senate Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages.
1. For the previous “Representation” sent to Congress that expounded on the difficulties associated with attending the various U.S. circuit courts, see n.1 of Supreme Court Justices to GW of 9 Aug. 1792. GW submitted this earlier representation with his second letter to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives of 7 Nov. 1792.
2. For the response of Congress to the justices’ previous complaint, see the Judiciary Act of 1793, which is titled “An Act to alter the times and places of holding the Circuit Courts, in the Eastern District, and in North Carolina, and for other purposes,” 2 March 1793 (Stat description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends . 1:335–36).
3. A writ of error is “a writ issued out of a court of appellate jurisdiction, directed to the judges of a court of record in which final judgment has been given, commanding them to send the record to the appellate court in order that some alleged error in the proceedings may be corrected” (Documentary History of the Supreme Court description begins Maeva Marcus et al., eds. The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789–1800. 8 vols. New York, 1985-2007. description ends , 1:596).
4. For subsequent alterations in the circuit and district court systems, see “An Act further to authorize the Adjournment of Circuit Courts,” 19 May 1794, and “An Act making certain alterations in the act for establishing the Judicial Courts, and altering the time and place of holding certain courts,” 9 June 1794 (Stat description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends . 1:369, 395–97).