50 important moments from the history of the Supreme Court.


On October 26, the youngest member of the Supreme Court was confirmed. 48-year-old Amy Coney Barret, a graduate of Notre Dame Law School, mother of seven children and judge at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, was nominated by President Donald Trump to fill the void left by the recent death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The timing of the nomination is controversial at best, with many pointing to the double standards of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who blocked President Barack Obama’s nomination in similar circumstances.

The current drama, however, is hardly the first to surround the US Supreme Court. In fact, since its founding in 1789, the Court has been confronted with a series of scandals of all shapes and sizes, some of which have had an incredible impact on American society.

The Supreme Court is the head of the judicial branch of the United States government. It has, perhaps more than any other branch of government, helped shape the country as it is known today. To put this history into context, Stacker created a timeline of the Supreme Court from its founding to its current controversies. Using information from the courts of the United States, the Supreme Court archives and various news reports, 50 important moments in the history of the court are presented.

Read on to learn more about landmark cases, key players and important premieres.

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1789: The Supreme Court is established

In 1789 the first law of the U.S. Senate – the Judiciary Act – was passed by Congress and signed by President George Washington, officially establishing the Supreme Court. The third branch of government was originally composed of six judges: a Chief Justice and five associate judges, all of whom could serve for life or until retirement.

1790: The first judges meet in New York City

On February 1, 1790, the first judges of the Supreme Court met in the Royal Exchange Building in New York City. In the initial line-up, all of whom were nominated by President George Washington, were John Jay, who served as Chief Justice, and the judges James Wilson, William Cushing, John Blair, John Rutledge and James Iredell.

1791: The court heard his first case

On August 3, 1791, the Supreme Court made its first decision in the case of West against Barnes. In a unanimous 5-0 decision in favor of David Leonard Barnes, granted on a procedural issue, William West lost his farm to Barnes.

1793: Chisholm v. Georgia

As the first significant case decided by the Supreme Court, Alexander Chisholm sued the State of Georgia against Georgia for payments due to it for the delivery of goods during the Revolutionary War. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, stating that private individuals can sue states in a federal court. Finally, this decision was overturned by the 11th Amendment, which states that states cannot be sued by citizens of other states or foreign jurisdictions.

1795: Rutledge removed from the Supreme Court

John Rutledge holds the record of being the shortest serving Chief Justice in the history of the Supreme Court. He briefly served as Interim Chief Justice in 1795 before making derogatory remarks against then-President George Washington and the Jay Treaty, saying, “As much as I love Washington, I would rather see him dead than sign the treaty. Because of the scandal, the Senate refused to confirm his appointment and Rutledge eventually withdrew from public life.

1801: Marshall is appointed Chief Justice

John Marshall, widely regarded as the most influential Chief Justice of all time, was appointed to the court by President John Adams in 1801. More than any other judge, Marshall, who was born in Virginia, shaped the Supreme Court’s relationship with other branches of government and strongly believed in the supremacy of the federal government over state governments.

1803: Marbury v. Madison

Perhaps the most important case brought before the Marshall Court, Marbury v. Madison, established the process of judicial review that allows Americans to repeal laws that they believe violate the Constitution, which in these terms is defined as the law itself, not just a collection of ideals. The case itself resulted from a dispute between


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