He was born in Maryland and educated in Baltimore. He studied law and practiced it in Annapolis. In 1774 he represented Maryland at the Continental Congress, and was re-elected in 1775, serving until 1778. In 1786, living in Baltimore, he was appointed chief justice of the District Criminal Court, and became chief justice of Maryland. In 1796 he was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of the United States, serving there until his death.
The Jeffersonian Republican-controlled United States Senate on November 30, 1803 began an impeachment trial against Justice Chase. He was charged with political bias but was acquitted by the Senate of all charges on March 1, 1805.