The Federal Judiciary
Supreme Court of the United States of America is established in Article
III of the Constitution. While the Constitution formally provides
for a "Chief Justice" of the Court, it leaves the actual size of
the Court up to the Congress. The Congress originally provided for
five Associate Justices (for a total of six). The Congress periodically
expanded and contracted the size of the Court from seven to nine
to ten, back down to six and then back up to its current level of
nine. (For practical purposes, the Court tends to function better
when there are an odd number of Justices, thereby disallowing the
possibility of tie votes.) For a current listing of Supreme Court
Justices, see "Quick Facts" about
the Federal Judiciary.
Supreme Court is located just northeast of the United States Capitol.
In fact, this building itself is closer to the Capitol than some congressional
offices. The impressive building and location of the Court today belie
its earlier lack of stature in the American political system. Its evolving
role is a significant part of America's history.
size of the Supreme Court is determined by the Congress. There are
currently nine justices on the Court--a Chief Justice and eight Associate
Justices. When a vacancy opens on the Court, the President nominates
a new Justice who is then confirmed or rejected by the Senate. If confirmed,
the nominee becomes a member of the Court and holds that office "during
good behavior." In other words, short of committing an impeachable
offense, Supreme Court Justices serve for life or until they voluntarily
No. 78 - The Judiciary Department
No. 79 - The Judiciary Continued
No. 80 - The Powers of the Judiciary
No. 81 - The Judiciary Continued, and the Distribution
of the Judicial Authority
No. 82 - The Judiciary Continued
No. 83 - The Judiciary Continued in Relation
to Trial by Jury
No. 78-79, No. 80, No.
81, and No. 82 - The Power of the Judiciary
No. 83 - The Federal Judiciary and the Issue
of Trial by Jury
Read Supreme Court Decisions in the Library
Reasearch and Study Helps
What is a recess appointment?
Facts & Figures
Current Supreme Court Justices
Think About It
What is the proper role of the Supreme Court?
What avenues are available to political leaders and citizens when they
disagree with a Supreme Court decision?
How important are the religious beliefs and values of Supreme Court
Justices? What can be done to make sure that future Justices are the
kinds of people you would like to have sit on the Supreme Court?
Should the Supreme Court be the last defense in the protection of rights
and liberties? If not, what institution or what group of people should
be? How practical is your answer? (How would they protect rights and
liberties, in real-life situations, better than the Court does today?)
Applying What You've Learned
Federalist No. 78. Summarize Hamilton's arguments about the Supreme
Court. Is the Court today and its actions consistent with what Hamilton
had in mind? Why or why not?
Headlines & Editorials
The Federal Judiciary on the Web
The United States Supreme Court
The Federal Judiciary Online
The Oyez Project Supreme Court Multimedia Database
Virtual Tour of the Supreme Court