John Rutledge Court (1795)

John Rutledge was the 2nd Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, succeeding John Jay. He was appointed by President George Washington while the Senate was in recess. Rutledge was sworn into office on August 12, 1795 and exited just 138 days later on December 28, 1795, after the Senate refused to confirm him. Its rejection likely stemmed from his implacable opposition to a treaty between the U.S. and Great Britain that had been negotiated by Jay. A distraught Rutledge attempted to drown himself but was saved by two slaves. He was succeeded by Oliver Ellsworth.

Rutledge was the shortest-serving Chief Justice in Supreme Court history, by a wide margin. He was also the first Supreme Court nominee to be rejected by the Senate and the only Justice appointed during a recess who was ultimately rejected by the Senate.

The five Associate Justices on the Rutledge Court all served on the Jay Court before Rutledge became Chief Justice. These were Justices James Wilson, William Cushing, John Blair, James Iredell, and William Paterson. (Rutledge also served as an Associate Justice on the Jay Court for just over a year. This gives him the dubious distinction of being the shortest-serving Associate Justice as well as the shortest-serving Chief Justice.) Justice Blair resigned in October 1795, but he had not yet been replaced when Rutledge departed.

The Rutledge Court issued only two decisions, both of which involved the capture of vessels on the high seas. In U.S. v. Peters, the Court granted a writ of prohibition to prevent a federal district court from reviewing an action over which it did not have jurisdiction. In Talbot v. Jansen, the Court signaled a recognition of dual citizenship. Today, U.S. law does not require a person to choose one citizenship or another.

Associate Justices on the Rutledge Court:

  • James Wilson (1789-1798)
  • William Cushing (1790-1810)
  • John Blair (1790-1795)
  • James Iredell (1790-1799)
  • William Paterson (1793-1806)