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The Cousin Rivalry That Gave the Supreme Court Its Power
A COUSIN RIVALRY GAVE THE SUPREME COURT ITS POWER (YES, REALLY)
When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away and Judge Amy Coney Barrett was nominated to take her place, the eyes of the country turned to the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s no secret that the court has a lot of power. Its decisions, like Loving v. Virginia , Brown v. Board of Education , and Roe v. Wade , have reshaped America. But how did just nine people come to hold so much sway? Well, the answer lies with two rival second cousins: Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall. Back in 1803, the Supreme Court was the laughingstock of Washington. It was a collection of misfits (including a man nicknamed “Red Old Bacon Face”) and met in Congress’ basement. When Marshall was chief justice of the court and Jefferson was president, the cousin controversy reared its head. Marshall and Jefferson were in rival political parties and, to add insult to injury, Marshall’s mother-in-law had once spurned Jefferson’s romantic advances, according to Washington legend. In 1803, Jefferson (a Republican) was upset because a judge whom his predecessor, President John Adams (a Federalist), had tried to appoint was suing Jefferson’s secretary of state over failing to actually appoint him.
The Supreme Court met in these windowless chambers from 1819 to 1860.
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