List of federal judges appointed by George Washington

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President George Washington appointed 11 justices to the Supreme Court and 28 judges to United States district courts.

United States President George Washington appointed 39 Article III United States federal judges during his presidency,[1] which lasted from April 30, 1789 to March 4, 1797. The first group of Washington's appointments—two justices of the Supreme Court of the United States and ten district court judges—began service two days after Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1789, which formally established the federal judiciary.[2] Washington's last court appointee received his commission twelve days before the end of Washington's presidency.

As the first President, Washington was responsible for appointing the entire Supreme Court; he appointed a record eleven justices, including two Chief Justices who were confirmed from outside the Court and one former Justice named as Chief Justice by a recess appointment, but not ultimately confirmed to the position. Additionally, Washington nominated Robert H. Harrison, who declined to serve,[3][4] and nominated William Cushing for elevation to Chief Justice,[5] who likewise declined.[Note 1]

Since there were no sitting justices at the beginning of Washington's term, he had the unique opportunity to fill the entire body of United States federal judges with his selections. Despite this, Washington appointed only 28 judges to the United States district courts, due to the smaller size of the judiciary at the time; there were far fewer states, most states had a single district court, and each district had a single judge assigned to it. Because intermediate federal appellate courts had not yet been established, this, combined with the Supreme Court appointments, constituted the total number of federal judicial appointments made by Washington.[1] The number is roughly 10% of the record 376 judges appointed by Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1989, when the judiciary was much larger,[Note 2] and less than 5% of the number of active federal judges serving as of July 2010.[Note 3] Richard Peters Jr. served for over 36 years, the longest of Washington's appointments.

Washington appointed a small number of Article IV territorial judges. He appointed Samuel Holden Parsons, John Cleves Symmes, George Turner and Rufus Putnam to the court of the Northwest Territory, Putnam being appointed to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Parsons. He appointed David Campbell, John McNairy and Joseph Anderson to the court of the Southwest Territory. After the Southwest Territory was admitted to the union as the State of Tennessee, McNairy would go on to serve as its first United States District Judge.

As no Article I legislative courts existed during Washington's administration, he made no judicial appointments under Article I. The first court created under Article I, the United States Court of Claims, would not be established until 1855, under the administration of President Franklin Pierce.

Additionally, the District of Columbia judiciary would not exist until the passage of the District of Columbia Organic Act of 1801 under President John Adams.

United States Supreme Court Justices[edit]

# Justice Seat State Former Justice Nomination
date
Confirmation
date
Began
active service
Ended
active service
1 Jay, JohnJohn Jay Chief New York Seat established September 24, 1789 September 26, 1789 September 26, 1789 June 29, 1795
2 Rutledge, JohnJohn Rutledge 1 South Carolina Seat established September 24, 1789[Note 4] September 26, 1789 September 26, 1789 March 5, 1791
2.1 Rutledge, JohnJohn Rutledge Chief South Carolina Jay, JohnJohn Jay December 10, 1795[Note 4] July 1, 1795 December 28, 1795
3 Cushing, WilliamWilliam Cushing 2 Massachusetts Seat established September 24, 1789 September 26, 1789 September 27, 1789 September 13, 1810
4 Wilson, JamesJames Wilson 3 Pennsylvania Seat established September 24, 1789 September 26, 1789 September 29, 1789 August 21, 1798
5 Blair Jr., JohnJohn Blair Jr. 4 Virginia Seat established September 24, 1789 September 26, 1789 September 30, 1789 October 25, 1795
6 Iredell, JamesJames Iredell 5 North Carolina Seat established February 8, 1790 February 10, 1790 February 10, 1790 October 20, 1799
7 Johnson, ThomasThomas Johnson 1 Maryland Rutledge, JohnJohn Rutledge October 31, 1791 November 7, 1791 August 5, 1791[7] January 16, 1793
8 Paterson, WilliamWilliam Paterson 1 New Jersey Johnson, ThomasThomas Johnson March 4, 1793[9] March 4, 1793 March 4, 1793 September 9, 1806
9 Chase, SamuelSamuel Chase 4 Maryland Blair Jr., JohnJohn Blair Jr. January 26, 1796 January 27, 1796 January 27, 1796 June 19, 1811
10 Ellsworth, OliverOliver Ellsworth Chief Connecticut Rutledge, JohnJohn Rutledge March 3, 1796 March 4, 1796 March 4, 1796 December 15, 1800

District Courts[edit]

# Judge Court
[Note 5]
Nomination
date
Confirmation
date
Began active
service
Ended active
service
1 Bedford Jr., GunningGunning Bedford Jr. D. Del. September 24, 1789 September 26, 1789 September 26, 1789 March 30, 1812
2 Brearley, DavidDavid Brearley D.N.J. September 25, 1789 September 25, 1789 September 26, 1789 August 16, 1790
3 Duane, JamesJames Duane D.N.Y. September 25, 1789 September 25, 1789 September 26, 1789 March 17, 1794
4 Hopkinson, FrancisFrancis Hopkinson D. Pa. September 24, 1789 September 26, 1789 September 26, 1789 May 9, 1791
5 Innes, HarryHarry Innes D. Ky. September 24, 1789 September 26, 1789 September 26, 1789 September 20, 1816
6 Law, RichardRichard Law D. Conn. September 24, 1789 September 26, 1789 September 26, 1789 January 26, 1806
7 Lowell, JohnJohn Lowell D. Mass. September 24, 1789 September 26, 1789 September 26, 1789 February 20, 1801
8 Pendleton, NathanielNathaniel Pendleton D. Ga. September 24, 1789 September 26, 1789 September 26, 1789 September 1, 1796
9 Sewall, DavidDavid Sewall D. Me. September 24, 1789 September 26, 1789 September 26, 1789 January 9, 1818
10 Sullivan, JohnJohn Sullivan D.N.H. September 24, 1789 September 26, 1789 September 26, 1789 January 23, 1795
11 Drayton Sr., WilliamWilliam Drayton Sr. D.S.C. February 8, 1790 February 10, 1790 November 18, 1789[10] May 18, 1790
12 Griffin, CyrusCyrus Griffin D. Va. February 8, 1790 February 10, 1790 November 28, 1789[10] December 14, 1810
13 Paca, WilliamWilliam Paca D. Md. February 8, 1790 February 10, 1790 December 22, 1789[10] October 13, 1799
14 Bee, ThomasThomas Bee D.S.C. June 11, 1790 June 14, 1790 June 14, 1790 February 18, 1812
15 Marchant, HenryHenry Marchant D.R.I. July 2, 1790 July 3, 1790 July 3, 1790 August 30, 1796
16 Stokes, JohnJohn Stokes D.N.C. August 2, 1790 August 3, 1790 August 3, 1790 October 12, 1790
17 Morris, RobertRobert Morris D.N.J. December 17, 1790 December 20, 1790 August 28, 1790[11] February 13, 1801[12]
18 Sitgreaves, JohnJohn Sitgreaves D.N.C. December 17, 1790 December 20, 1790 December 20, 1790 June 9, 1794[13]
19 Chipman, NathanielNathaniel Chipman D. Vt. March 4, 1791 March 4, 1791 March 4, 1791 January 1, 1793
20 Lewis, WilliamWilliam Lewis D. Pa. October 31, 1791 November 7, 1791 July 14, 1791[7] January 4, 1792
21 Peters, RichardRichard Peters D. Pa. January 12, 1792 January 13, 1792 January 12, 1792 April 20, 1818[14]
22 Hitchcock, SamuelSamuel Hitchcock D. Vt. December 27, 1793 December 30, 1793 September 3, 1793[15] February 20, 1801
23 Laurance, JohnJohn Laurance D.N.Y. May 5, 1794 May 6, 1794 May 6, 1794 November 8, 1796
24 Pickering, JohnJohn Pickering D.N.H. February 10, 1795 February 11, 1795 February 11, 1795 March 12, 1804
25 Clay Jr., JosephJoseph Clay Jr. D. Ga. December 21, 1796 December 27, 1796 September 16, 1796[16] May 12, 1801
26 Bourne, BenjaminBenjamin Bourne D.R.I. December 21, 1796 December 22, 1796 October 13, 1796[17] February 20, 1801
27 Troup, RobertRobert Troup D.N.Y. December 9, 1796 December 10, 1796 December 10, 1796 April 4, 1798
28 McNairy, JohnJohn McNairy D. Tenn. February 17, 1797 February 20, 1797 February 20, 1797 April 29, 1802[18]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Some documents claim that he accepted the appointment and immediately resigned.[6]
  2. ^ The Biographical Directory of Federal Judges lists 358 judges appointed by President Reagan, with reappointments and elevations bringing the number to 376.
  3. ^ The Biographical Directory of Federal Judges lists close to 800 judges in active status, with nearly to 500 more in senior status.
  4. ^ a b Unusually, Rutledge served two different terms on the Supreme Court. He was first appointed as an Associate Justice in 1789, resigning from that position in 1791. He became Chief Justice via a recess appointment in 1795, and was formally nominated on December 10, 1795. His nomination was thereafter rejected by the Senate in December 1795, and he resigned shortly after.
  5. ^ See List of United States district and territorial courts

References[edit]

General
Specific
  1. ^ a b Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, passim.
  2. ^ "The Judiciary Act of 1789". U.S. Congress. September 24, 1789. Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  3. ^ Washington, George (September 28, 1789). "To Robert Hanson Harrison". Washington, George, 1732-1799. The writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources. Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library. Archived from the original on February 20, 2011. Retrieved 2009-04-04. 
  4. ^ Washington, George (November 25, 1789). "To Robert Hanson Harrison". Washington, George, 1732-1799. The writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources. Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library. Archived from the original on February 20, 2011. Retrieved 2009-04-04. 
  5. ^ Marcus & Perry, p. 103.
  6. ^ Marcus & Perry, p. 120.
  7. ^ a b Recess appointment; formally nominated on October 31, 1791, confirmed by the United States Senate on November 7, 1791, and received commission on November 7, 1791.
  8. ^ Marcus & Perry, p. 89-90.
  9. ^ Paterson was initially nominated on February 27, 1793, but the nomination was immediately withdrawn by the President for technical reasons, the message being received by the Senate on Feb 28, 1793. Paterson was successfully renominated four days later.[8]
  10. ^ a b c Recess appointment; formally nominated on February 8, 1790, confirmed by the United States Senate on February 10, 1790, and received commission on February 10, 1790.
  11. ^ Recess appointment; formally nominated on December 17, 1790, confirmed by the United States Senate on December 20, 1790, and received commission on December 20, 1790.
  12. ^ On February 13, 1801, the District of New Jersey was subdivided into the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New Jersey and the United States District Court for the Western District of New Jersey. Morris was reassigned to be the sole judge for both courts by operation of law. The Districts were reunited on July 1, 1802, and Morris was again reassigned by operation of law to be the sole judge for the reconstituted District of New Jersey, until his death on June 2, 1815.
  13. ^ On June 9, 1794, the District of North Carolina was subdivided into the Edenton, New Bern, and Wilmington Districts of North Carolina; on March 3, 1797, the single District of North Carolina was reconstituted; and on February 13, 1801, the District was subdivided into the Albemarle, Cape Fear, and Pamptico Districts of North Carolina. In each instance, Sitgreaves was reassigned by operation of law to serve as the sole federal judge for the subdivided or reconstituted District, and he remained the sole federal judge serving the state of North Carolina until his death on March 4, 1802.
  14. ^ On April 20, 1818, the District of Pennsylvania was subdivided into the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania; Peters was assigned by operation of law to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and continued in that office until his death on August 22, 1828.
  15. ^ Recess appointment; formally nominated on December 27, 1793, confirmed by the United States Senate on December 30, 1793, and received commission on January 28, 1794.
  16. ^ Recess appointment; formally nominated on December 21, 1796, confirmed by the United States Senate on December 27, 1796, and received commission on January 2, 1797.
  17. ^ Recess appointment; formally nominated on December 21, 1796, confirmed by the United States Senate on December 22, 1796, and received commission on December 22, 1796.
  18. ^ On April 29, 1802, the District of Tennessee was subdivided into the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee and the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee; McNairy was assigned to both districts by operation of law, and continued to be the sole federal judge serving the state of Tennessee until his resignation on September 1, 1833.