November 3, 1789 – First Federal Court Session Under the U.S. Constitution

On this day in history, the first-ever federal court session under the U.S. Constitution and Judiciary Act was held in the Royal Exchange Building in Manhattan, New York.

The session, conducted by Judge James Duane, occurred three months before the U.S. Supreme Court also met in the Royal Exchange (a building which no longer exists).

James Duane, born in 1733, was an American lawyer, jurist, and Revolutionary leader. He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress, a New York state senator, and as the 44th Mayor of New York City. (The first mayor, Thomas Willett, took office in 1665!)

On September 25, 1789, President Washington named him the first judge of the United States District Court for the District of New York, created by 1 Stat. 73. He was immediately confirmed by the United States Senate, and received his commission the following day.

Duane served on the Federal bench until March 17, 1794, when his health forced him to resign.

James Duane

James Duane


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