CIRCUIT-RIDING

CIRCUIT-RIDING

circuit-riding, n. The practice of judges’ traveling within a legislatively defined circuit to hear cases in one place for a time, then another, and so on. ? The American practice of circuit-riding was based on the English eyre system, in which justices rode between the shire towns to hold assizes.

¡°The Judiciary Act of 1789 required that the justices of the Supreme Court serve also as judges of the circuit courts. The justices complained that circuit riding caused serious physical hardships and diverted them from more im-portant duties in the nation’s capital…. Congress in 1801 abolished circuit riding on grounds of efficiency, but a year later a new Jeffersonian Republican majority restored the practice, obliging each justice to hold circuit court along with a district judge. Gradually, however, improved communications, increasing business in the nation’s capital, and the strengthening of American nationhood following the Civil War rendered circuit riding anachro-nistic. Congress in the Judiciary Act of 1869 established a separate circuit court judiciary, although the justices retained nominal circuit riding duties until the Circuit Court of Appeals Act of 1891. Congress officially ended the practice in 1911.¡± The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States 145 (Kermit L. Hall ed., 1992).


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