As winter approached in late 1789, Justice David Sewall of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court received unanticipated correspondence from President George Washington. Washington informed Sewall that he had been appointed and confirmed as United States District Judge for the District of Maine, then still part of Massachusetts. The matter was not open to discussion; Sewall’s commission was enclosed. Writing from his home in York, Sewall noted that the appointment was “unsolicited and unexpected,” and he expressed concern that his service as a state supreme court justice would not fully prepare him for the task. “In this new appointment,” Sewall explained, “the Judge is to stand alone, and unassisted, and in some instances in matters of the greatest magnitude—Such as relate to the life of Man.” Grateful for the privilege of national service and the honor of appointment, he hoped to vindicate the President’s confidence and secure the “approbation of my fellow Citizens.” “All I can promise on the occasion, is, that I will endeavour to merit them—by striving to discharge the duties of the office with fidelity and impartiality according to the best of my abilities.”President Washington appointed all thirteen original United Statesdistrict judges in like fashion, and most responded with similar humility and trepidation. Despite their modesty, however, they were a distinguished group. John Sullivan of New Hampshire had been a general in the Revolutionary War, delegate to the Continental Congress, and—before the formation of the Union—President of New Hampshire. James Duane had served five years as Mayor of New York. William Paca had signed the Declaration of Independence and served as Maryland’s governor. David Brearley signed the Constitution for New Jersey, as Gunning Bedford, Jr., did for Delaware. William Drayton, appointed in his native South Carolina, had served more than a decade as Chief Justice of the British colony of East Florida. Francis Hopkinson of Pennsylvania, a poet and musician as well asSpeaking of District Judges, there is a rumor going around that one of our own DJs is interested in the new U.S. Attorney slot. Anyone else hearing this?
a lawyer, designed key precursors of the Great Seal of the United States and the United States flag famously attributed to Betsy Ross. These individuals are not well known in our era, but they launched the new system of United States district courts and set the course for the important role those institutions would come to play in the new republic.
Tuesday, January 03, 2017
Nothing like starting off the new year with the Chief Justice's year-end report. This one is about how great and important district judges are. The intro: