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date: 02 April 2020

Supreme Courtlocked

  • Paul Finkelman


The United States Supreme Court heard its first cases in the 1790s, at which time its jurisdiction was mostly limited to appeals from state supreme courts and lower federal courts and usually involved issues of national law or constitutional interpretation. Before 1830 the Court did not hear any cases involving the Constitution s fugitive slave clause but did hear some cases involving the African slave trade At that time Supreme Court justices also presided over trials while riding circuit and as such heard cases dealing with slavery and race The federal courts also had jurisdiction over the District of Columbia and thus the U S Supreme Court played the same role as a state supreme court for ordinary nonconstitutional cases coming out of the nation s capital These cases were complicated by the fact that part of the District what is today Alexandria Virginia was subject to the laws ...

A version of this article originally appeared in The Encyclopedia of African American History, 1619–1895.

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