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John Jay

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John Jay
John Jay (Gilbert Stuart portrait).jpg
Current Court Information:
Supreme Court of the United States
Title:   Former Chief Justice
Position:   Seat #1
Appointed by:   George Washington
Active:   9/26/1789-6/29/1795
Chief:   9/26/1789-6/29/1795
Preceded by:   New Seat
Succeeded by:   Oliver Ellsworth
Personal History
Born:   December 12, 1745
Hometown:   New York, NY
Deceased:   May 17, 1829
Undergraduate:   King's College, 1764
Law School:   Read law, 1768
Grad. School:   King's College, 1767

John Jay was the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He joined the court in 1789 after a nomination from President George Washington. Jay resigned on June 29, 1795 to become Governor of New York, a position he did not want. Prior to joining the court, Jay was the Secretary of Foreign Affairs under the Articles of Confederation.[1] He passed away on May 17, 1829.[2]

Jay was one of ten justices nominated to the Supreme Court by President Washington, and one of three Chief Justices.[3]

Early life and education

Jay received undergraduate and Masters degrees from King's College in 1764 and 1767, respectively. He earned his law credentials by read law, an independent study program common prior to the creation of law schools.[2]

Professional career

  • 1795-1801: Governor of New York
  • 1794-1795: Negotiator of Jay Treaty with Great Britain
  • 1784-1790: Secretary of Foreign Affairs under the Articles of Confederation
  • 1782-1783: Negotiator of Treaty of Paris with Great Britain
  • 1779-1782: U.S. Minister Plenipotentiary to Spain
  • 1778-1779: President, Second Continental Congress
  • 1777-1778: Chief Justice, New York Supreme Court of Judicature
  • 1774-1778: Delegate, Continental Congress
  • 1768-1774: Attorney, private practice in New York City[2]

Judicial career

Supreme Court of the United States

Jay was nominated by President George Washington on September 24, 1789, to become the first Chief Justice of the United States. He was confirmed by the Senate on September 26, 1789, and received commission that same day. He resigned on June 29, 1795.[2] He was succeeded to the post of Chief Justice by Oliver Ellsworth.

Notable cases

Author: John Jay

Vote Count: 5-0

Majority Justices: James Wilson, William Cushing, John Blair, John Rutledge

First Supreme Court Decision (1791)

This is the first case of oral arguments heard and decided by the Supreme Court. In 1763, William West had to mortgage his farm due to problems with a molasses deal with the Jenckes family. For twenty years, he paid on the mortgage. However, in 1785, he appealed to the state to set up a lottery to help him to pay the remainder of his mortgage. Because of West's service in the Revolutionary War, the State of Rhode Island agreed. During this period, West paid some of the debt in paper currency. However, the Jenckes family brought suit against him, arguing that the debt needed to be paid in gold or silver. West originally represented himself in court and lost. Upon taking it to the Supreme Court, he hired a lawyer but still lost the case due to a procedural issue; he had a writ of error issued by a lower court clerk when he needed it issued by a Supreme Court Clerk within ten days. On August 3, 1791, the Supreme Court made its decision, 5-0 in favor of Barnes. West eventually lost his farm and the procedures to obtain a writ of error were revised to allow circuit court clerks to issue them.[4]
Author: John Jay

Vote Count: 4-1

Concurring Justices: William Cushing, John Blair, James Wilson

Dissenting Justice: James Iredell

Chisholm v. Georgia (1793)

When Georgia did not pay the South Carolinian businessman for the supplies they purchased in 1777, the executor of the former businessman's estate, Alexander Chisholm, filed suit to receive the money. However, Georgia maintained its sovereignty as a state and argued that it was not under jurisdiction of the federal court. On February 5, 1793, the Supreme Court decided that "the people of the United States" were bound together by the federal, legislative and judicial powers: Georgia was subject to federal laws and rulings. Sovereign powers could only be held by the citizens of the states. Furthermore, the case was subject to judicial review because the United States Constitution made clear that disputes between states and citizens of other states were subject to federal jurisdiction.[5]
Author: John Jay

Vote Count: 5-0

Majority Justices: James Wilson, William Cushing, John Blair, and John Rutledge

Glass v. Sloop Betsey (1794)

In 1794, President Washington declared neutrality in the war between France and Britain. Despite this designation, the French brought captured British ships to the United States ports. A Swedish-owned ship named the Betsey that had American cargo, was captured by French privateers on the ship the Citizen Genet. The Betsey was then taken to Baltimore to determine its fate, along with the fate of its cargo. Alexander A. Glass, who owned some of the cargo, filed suit in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland to retain his goods. However, the Maryland Court ruled that it could not hear the case. Upon appeal to the Supreme Court, the justices determined on February 18, 1794, that the Maryland Court must hear the case.[6]

See also

External links


Federal judicial offices
Preceded by:
NA - new seat
Supreme Court
Seat #1
Succeeded by:
Oliver Ellsworth