This Day in Supreme Court History—February 1, 1790

On February 1, 1790, U.S. Supreme Court sat for the first time. They met on the second floor of the Merchants Exchange Building in New York City, the nation’s capital at the time.

In addition to Chief Justice John Jay, associate justices William Cushing of Massachusetts and James Wilson of Pennsylvania were present. Missing from the first sitting of the Court were Justices John Rutledge of South Carolina, John Blair of Virginia, and Robert Harrison of Maryland.

The scene at the Court’s scheduled opening on February 1 was “uncommonly crowded,” according to one press account. Among those in attendance were New York City’s mayor, the federal judge for the district of New York, the Recorder of New York, and the Marshal of the district of New York.

The Court dedicated its first sessions to organizational proceedings. The justices appointed a court crier and a clerk, and admitted lawyers to the bar. The Court heard no cases that day. In fact, it heard no cases during its entire first term. The next year, the Court reconvened in Philadelphia, the new national capital.

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