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The Supreme Court  

Further your knowledge of the highest federal court in the United States
Last Updated: Apr 21, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

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Current Members of the Supreme Court (2015)

Cheif Justice

  • John Roberts

Assoicate Justices

  • Antonin Scalia
  • Anthony Kennedy
  • Clarence Thomas
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  • Stephen Bryer
  • Samuel Alito
  • Sonia Sotomayor
  • Elena Kagan

There are no official qualifications for becoming a Supreme Court Justice

The Constitution spells out age, citizenship and residency requirements for becoming president of the United States or a member of Congress but mentions no rules for joining the nation’s highest court.


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As the final arbiter of constitional disputes, the U.S. Supreme Court wields enormous influence in national affairs.  Indeed, given the magnitude of some of its decisions over the last century or so, the Court has, perhaps more than any other governmental body, shaped the social landscape of modern America.  In terms of their transformative impact, few presidential initiatives or pieces of congressional legislation can compare to Supreme Court rulings like Brown v. Board of Education, which struck down the "seperate but equal" provisions that permitted racial segregation; Roe v. Wade, which declared that women have the constitutional right to an abortion; or Bush v. Gore, which paved the way for George W. Bush's assumption of the presidency by halting the Florida recout during the disputed 2000 election.  


The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court

Pictured above is the The Roberts Court (2015) (current members of the Supreme Court). Seated left to right: Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Standing left to right: Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Stephen Breyer, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Elena Kagan.

The Supreme Court of the Untied States of America consist of the Chief Justice and such number of Associate Justices as may be fixed by Congress.  As of 2014, this number is fixed to eight (8) Associate Justices and one (1) Chief Justice.  The power to nominate the Justices is held by the President of the United States, and appointments are made with the advice and consent of the Senate.  According to Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution, states that "Judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior, and shall, at stated times, recieve for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in Office."

Constitional Origin: Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution provides that " the judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish."

Jurisdiction: According to the Constitution, Article III, Section 2 "The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;-to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;-to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;-to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;-to Controversies between two or more States;—between a State and Citizens of another State;-between Citizens of different States;—between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects."

"In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make."

Appellate jurisdiction has been conferred upon the Supreme Court by various statutes, under the authority given Congress by the Constitution. 

Rulemaking Power: Congress has from time to time conferred upon the Supreme Court power to prescribe rules of procedure to be followed by the lower courts of the United States.

The Term: The Term of the Court begins, by law, on the first Monday in October and lasts until the first Monday in October of the next year. Approximately 10,000 petitions are filed with the Court in the course of a Term. In addition, some 1,200 applications of various kinds are filed each year that can be acted upon by a single Justice. (2015)


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The Building

The Supreme Court is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. It is closed Saturdays, Sundays, and on federal legal holidays. Unless the Court or the Chief Justice orders otherwise, the Clerk’s Office is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except on those holidays. The Library is open to members of the Bar of the Court, attorneys for the various federal departments and agencies, and Members of Congress.  The building is located in Washington D.C.


Did you know?

William Howard Taft is the only person to have served as U.S. president and on the court.


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