The Judiciary Act of 1789
George Washington (1731–1799)
The Judiciary Act of 1789 was one of the first actions of the new Congress, and it established a federal court system. According to the Constitution, the judicial branch shall be comprised of one Supreme Court and such lower courts as Congress may establish from time to time.
However, unlike the legislative provisions, in which the authors clearly stated the powers of Congress, Article III of the Constitution is ambiguous as to what judicial powers should be.
Because the three judicial systems in the British system — Common Pleas (private law), King’s Bench (criminal law), and Chancery (equity) — functioned separately and received their power from the King’s writ, Congress had no precedent to guide it.