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Second US President John Adams appointed 42 justices of the peace for the territory of Washington, DC a few days before President Jefferson succeeded him in office. Adams wanted to ensure his Federalist party, which was losing popularity to Jefferson's Democratic-Republican party, retained power in the government. He attempted to accomplish this by packing the Judicial branch of government with Federalist judges.

The lame duck Congress also passed the Judiciary Act of 1801, rearranging the federal court system and allowing Adams to appoint 16 new Circuit judges and several new District judges the month before leaving office. The justices of the peace and federal judges, collectively, are often referred to as the "midnight judges" for their last-minute appointments.

President Thomas Jefferson refused to have some of the commissions delivered after taking office, which lead to the US Supreme Court case Marbury v. Madison, (1803).

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14y ago

Chief Justice John Marshall wasn't appointed with the midnight judges, but before them, because Third Chief Justice Oliver Ellsworth was in poor health and agreed to step down so Federalist President John Adams could appoint the new Chief Justice before leaving office.

The midnight judges were appointed as the result of two Acts of Congress: The Judiciary Act of 1801, which added sixteen Circuit and five district court judges; and the District of Columbia Organic Act, which allowed Adams to appoint 42 justices of the peace.

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John Adams

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Q: What US President appointed the Midnight Judges?
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supreme court justices are appointed by the president' state judges are either elected or appointed by the governor


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Who appointed the midnight judges?

The "Midnight Judges" were 42 Federalist justices of the peace President John Adams appointed immediately before his administration ended and Thomas Jefferson's began. They were appointed because Adams realized the Federalist party was losing power and control in government to the Democratic-Republicans (who also called themselves "anti-Federalists,").The Midnight Judges were symbolically important, but had little judicial power and only served five-year terms. They were appointed as a matter of patronage (a reward to a loyal political supporter) under the Organic Act of 1801 (for the District of Columbia), and were not part of the court-packing scheme devised under the Judiciary Act of 1801, that allowed Adams and the Federalist-dominated Congress to appoint a number of judges to Article III constitutional courts.Those judges represented a real problem for incoming President Jefferson, because they received lifetime appointments and would have had a political and ideological impact on the US government for decades to come. The Midnight Judges, on the other hand, posed no political threat, but Jefferson allegedly believed John Adams had appointed an excessive number and withheld some of their commissions. They may also have been an annoying reminder of Adams' clever court-packing scheme, but that's a different story.Several of the Midnight Judges whose commissions were withheld attempted to compel their delivery by filing suit in the US Supreme Court. These men played an important role in a landmark US Supreme Court case, Marbury v. Madison, (1803), and were ultimately of more historical importance than the higher federal judges.For more information about Marbury v. Madison and the midnight judges, see Related Questions, below.


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