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US Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest judicial body in the United States.  The Supreme Court was created in accordance with Article III, §1, of the Constitution of United States and by authority of the Judiciary Act of September 24, 1789 (1 Stat. 73).  It was organized on February 2, 1790. 

The Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice of the United States and such number of Associate Justices as may be fixed by Congress.  Currently there are eight Associate Justices.  The President of the United States Power nominates the Justices in accordance with the advice and consent of the Senate.  Article III, §1, of the Constitution 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.” 

Court Officers assist the Court in the performance of its functions.  They include the Counselor to the Chief Justice, the Clerk, the Reporter of Decisions, the Librarian, the Marshal, the Court Counsel, the Curator, the Director of Data Systems, and the Public Information Officer.  The Counselor to the Chief Justice is appointed by the Chief Justice.  The Clerk, Reporter of Decisions, Librarian, and Marshal are appointed by the Court.  All other Court Officers are appointed by the Chief Justice in consultation with the Court.

The Supreme Court has original and appellate jurisdictions.  The Supreme
Court has original jurisdiction in all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State is a party.  The Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, in cases between citizens of different states, between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States.  Appellate jurisdiction has been conferred upon the Supreme Court by various statutes, under the authority given Congress by the Constitution.

The judgment of the Supreme Court on a constitutional issue is virtually final.  The decision can be altered only by the rarely used procedure of constitutional amendment or by a new ruling of the Court.  However, when the Court interprets a statute, new legislative action can be taken.  The Supreme Court has the power to prescribe rules of procedure to be followed by the lower courts of the United States. 

The Supreme Court is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.  It is closed on Saturdays, Sundays, and the federal legal holidays listed in 5 U. S. C. §6103. Members of the Bar of the Court, attorneys for the various federal departments and agencies, and Members of Congress can use the library.

The term of the Court begins on the first Monday in October and lasts until the first Monday in October of the next year.  The term is divided between “sittings,” when the Justices hear cases and deliver opinions, and intervening “recesses,” when they consider the business before the Court and write opinions. Sittings and recesses alternate at approximately two-week intervals.

Normally, each side is allowed 30 minutes argument and up to 24 cases may be argued at one sitting.  There is no jury and witnesses are not examined because majority of cases involve the review of a decision of some other court.  Prior to hearing oral argument, other business of the Court is transacted.  Order list is released on Monday mornings.  Order list is a public report of Court actions including the acceptance and rejection of cases, and the admission of new members to the Court bar.  Opinions are typically released on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings and on the third Monday of each sitting, when the Court takes the Bench but does not hear any arguments.

Inside US Supreme Court