Because of the ambiguities in article iii how the

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Because of the ambiguities in Article III, how the judiciary operated was a product of trial and error. The Supreme Court, its justices, and all operating procedures changed many times before finally settling on the nine-justice, primarily appellate jurisdiction structure that the Court reflects today. Over time, the Court structure and size changed as a result of political debates through Congressional acts and by the Court itself, through its opinions. When the Supreme Court first met, the justices were required to hear cases on the Supreme Court level, and they were also required to try cases on the circuit court level. When the judiciary was set up, no funds were allocated to hire circuit 5 Original jurisdiction cases are those which the Supreme Court is constitutionally mandated to take, and no other court is permitted to try them. During those cases, the Supreme Court serves as a trial court. Such cases involve diplomatic personnel or one state suing another state. 6 Treason is the only crime stated in the Constitution.
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16 court judges. To compensate, the justices and judges from the lower district courts would periodically meet to hear cases as temporary circuit courts (Shnayerson 60-61). Circuit riding was only one of many things that made qualified persons reluctant to accept judicial nominations. This task involved riding on horseback through a circuit for about half a year, which could span several states, keeping a justice away from his family and the comforts of home (Shnayerson 60). Only the necessities could be carried with them, because buggy space was limited. Travel was difficult and justices often had to endure extreme cold if they served northern circuits, or extreme heat if riding in southern circuits. When the judiciary was first established, no provisions were made for circuit court judges, and Congress required two Supreme Court justices to preside over each circuit court hearing. This placed considerable strain on the justices as there were only six justices at the time. Although far fewer cases came before circuit courts and the Supreme Court then, the workload was nonetheless tremendous and extremely strenuous on those six men. In a relatively futile attempt to lessen the burden on the justices, Congress reduced, from two to one, the number of justices required to serve on each circuit court. Continuous debate eventually led to the creation of circuit judgeships in the Judiciary Act of 1801, but Congress reversed much of the Act in 1802, forcing justices to ride circuit again. Finally, in 1869, Congress provided for permanent circuit court judgeships and Supreme Court justices were no longer required to ride circuit (Federal Judicial Center , ―Supreme‖). The justices could finally focus their efforts on the increasingly large docket of the Supreme Court.
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17 During its infancy, the Supreme Court docket largely consisted of civil cases (Federal Judicial Center, ―Supreme‖ ). These early cases often involved land disputes because the law was especially unclear, although rapidly developing, in that area.
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