What Is the U.S. Supreme Court?


The United States has a system of government that relies on a system called checks and balances. This system allows laws to be put through a rigorous qualifying process that makes sure that every law is in line with the United States Constitution. The three branches of the U.S. government are the judicial, the executive and the legislative. The president and his cabinet are the executive branch, the Congress is the legislative branch and the Supreme Court is the judicial branch.

What Is The Supreme Court?

The Supreme Court is the highest law-defining body in the United States. It is made up of nine justices who are all appointed by the executive branch and confirmed by the legislative branch. A justice of the Supreme Court is appointed for life, although a justice can retire whenever they want. It takes a combined action of the legislative and executive branches to remove a Supreme Court justice.

Does The Supreme Court Hear Cases?

Every year, thousands of attorneys petition the Supreme Court to have their cases heard. When a case is decided in the Supreme Court, there is no appeal process. The Supreme Court usually chooses to hear cases that challenge Constitutional law, or could help alter the basis of law in some way. To win a case in the Supreme Court, one only has to win a majority of the votes. If one or more justices abstain from voting, then your case only needs to win a majority among the voting judges to win. But cases that do not win a five vote majority are often challenged.

What Else Does The Supreme Court Do?

The Supreme Court determines whether or not laws in effect or laws pending are constitutional. If members of Congress feel that a pending law is unconstitutional, then they can petition to have the Supreme Court review the law. If the law, in whole, is considered unconstitutional then it goes no further. But if only parts of the law are considered unconstitutional, then the remaining portions can still be voted on.

The Supreme Court also decides federal election matters when the vote is in question. This was most evident in the presidential election of 2000 when the Supreme Court overruled the highest court in the state of Florida and effectively made George W. Bush president.

The Supreme Court is the legal arm of the federal government that is charged with interpreting the laws for the rest of the country. When the Supreme Court gives a decision, that decision is final.