The Supreme Court

by   |  05.28.00  |  Supplemental Information


Chief Justice of the United States JOHN G. ROBERTS, JR.
Associate Justices

The Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice of the United States and such number of Associate Justices as may be fixed by Congress. The number of Associate Justices is currently fixed at eight (28 U. S. C. §1). Power to nominate the Justices is vested in the President of the United States, and appointments are made with the advice and consent of the Senate. Article III, §1, of the Constitution further provides that “[t]he Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.”

Constitutional Origin. Article III, §1, of the Constitution provides that “[t]he 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.” The Supreme Courtof the United States was created in accordance with this provision and by authority of the Judiciary Act of September 24, 1789 (1 Stat. 73). It was organized on February 2, 1790.

Jurisdiction. According to the Constitution (Art. III, §2):
“The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under thisConstitution, 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. The basic statute effective at this time in conferring and controlling jurisdiction of the Supreme Court may be found in 28 U. S. C. §1251 et seq., and various special statutes.The Court may grant certiorari to cases arising under the U.S. Constitution, laws and treaties. It has several appeals duties as well. The Court is the final interpreter of 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. See 28 U. S. C. §2071 et seq.

The Certiorari Process. Petitioners seek certiorari in cases from lower federal courts or the highest state courts. They file briefs with the Court, which meets to consider the cases. Four justices must agree to grant certiorari. About 8,000 petitions are filed with the Court in the course of a Term. About 200 are granted cert.

Arguments. Each side is given a half-hour for legal arguments and to answer justices’ questions. No witnesses are called. No immediate ruling is made.

Decisions. After a private vote, justices choose writers of majority and dissenting opinions. With the help of law clerks, drafts are circulated, refined. The process can last six months or longer

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. The justices typically complete their work by late June.

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 the federal legal holidays listed in 5 U. S. C. §6103. 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 Term. The Term of the Court begins, by law, on the first Monday in Octoberand lasts until the first Monday in October of the next year. Approximately 8,000 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.

The Supreme Court of the United States
One First Street, NE
Washington, DC 20543
Phone: 202-479-3211

Source: U.S. Supreme Court