US Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court is seated in Washington DC.  The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States and is the head of the Judiciary branch of the federal government.  The Supreme Court derives its authority from Article III of the Constitution and the Judiciary Act of 1789.  It consists of the Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices.  The number of Associate Justices is fixed by the Congress, which is now fixed at eight.  Any six justices together constitute a quorum.

The President nominates and appoints all the Justices including the Chief Justice with the consent and advice of the Senate.  The President can make temporary recess appointments when the Senate is on recess.  However, once the Senate is back in session, the temporary appointee Justice will need the approval of Senate to continue in service.

All justices are paid compensation for the service they perform.  The Justices enjoy their office for a lifetime, and they may be removed from the position only if convicted of a crime.

Other officers of the Supreme Court are: Counselor to the Chief Justice, Clerk, Librarian, Marshal, Reporter of Decisions, Court Counsel, Curator, Director of Data Systems, and Public Information Officer.  The main duty of all the court officers is to assist the Court in its daily proceedings and work operations.  The Chief Justice appoints the Counselor to the Chief.  Some of the remaining officers are appointed by the Court and others by the Chief Justice with the Court’s assistance.

The Supreme Court decides cases relating to:

  • The Constitution of the United States
  • Laws of the United State (federal law), and treaties made by the United States
  • US Ambassadors and other public ministers, and consuls
  • Admiralty and maritime jurisdiction
  • Cases where the United Sates is a party
  • Cases between two or more states
  • Cases between citizens of a state and another state
  • Cases between citizens of different states (diversity jurisdiction)
  • Cases between same state citizens but claiming lands under grants of different states
  • Cases between state or citizen and foreign states, or citizens.

The Supreme Court has two type of jurisdiction original and appellate jurisdiction.  The Supreme Court exercises original jurisdiction on cases dealt by it directly, for example cases relating to US Ambassadors and other public ministers, and consuls.  Appellate jurisdiction is exercised on those cases coming before it from lower courts.  For example, cases between citizens of different states.  Judicial review and judicial activism are the other two powers exercised by the Supreme Court.  Judicial review is the power to declare any law or executive action as unconstitutional if found that the law or executive action contradicts the provisions of the Constitution.  Judicial activism is the power of the Supreme Court to create new laws on a point which is not covered by any law created by the legislature.

Apart from the power to decide cases, the Supreme Court has some administrative power.  The Supreme Court determines the rules or procedure to be followed by the lower federal courts of the United States.

A term/year in Supreme Court is between Octobers of a year to October of the next year.  During a term roughly 10,000 petitions are filed in the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court functions during five days of the week, which is Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  The Supreme Court is open to public during its work hours.  The Supreme Court does not work on listed federal holidays, and it stays closed during the holidays.  The Supreme Court library is open to the Bar members, attorneys representing different federal department and agencies, and the Congress members.


Inside US Supreme Court