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Today in Georgia History
is a joint collaboration of the Georgia Historical Society & Georgia Public Broadcasting.

January 26

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Georgia Supreme Court

January 26, 1846 - Talbotton
We often talk about firsts. Today, it’s a last.

The United States got its Supreme Court in 1789. For many years Georgia was the only state that didn’t have a supreme court to review lower court decisions. The only way to correct judicial error was a new trial in a local court. That changed in 1845, when the legislature established Georgia’s Supreme Court.

Many Georgians didn’t want an appellate court, because of the ongoing battle between Georgia’s governors and the U.S. Supreme court over the fate of Georgia’s Cherokee Indians. The original court had three justices: Joseph Henry Lumpkin, Hiram Warner, and Eugenius Nisbet. Lumpkin was appointed the first chief justice in 1863. The number of justices expanded to six in 1896. In 1945, it expanded to its current number, seven, unlike the U.S. Supreme Court.

Georgia voters choose Georgia’s Supreme Court justices, and today those elections are non-partisan.

Georgia’s Supreme Court met for the very first time in Talbotton on January 26, 1846, Today in Georgia History.

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nineteenth century, Cherokee, court, law, legislature, Individuals groups and Institutions, Power Authority and Governance, Time Continuity and Change

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Fast Fact

The Georgia Constitution of 1983 authorized the General Assembly to increase the number of justices to nine, but has not done so.