The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States. Established pursuant to Article III of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, it has original jurisdiction over a narrow range of cases, including suits between two or more states and those involving ambassadors. It also has ultimate (and largely discretionary) appellate jurisdiction over all federal court and state court cases that involve a point of federal constitutional or statutory law. The Court has the power of judicial review, the ability to invalidate a statute for violating a provision of the Constitution. Executive acts can be struck down by the Court for violating either the Constitution or federal law. However, it may act only within the context of a case in an area of law over which it has jurisdiction. The court may decide cases having political overtones, but it has ruled that it does not have power to decide nonjusticiable political questions.
As set by the Judiciary Act of 1869, the Court consists of the Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices. Each justice has lifetime tenure, meaning they remain on the Court until they resign, retire, die, or are removed from office. When a vacancy occurs, the president, with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoints a new justice. Each justice has a single vote in deciding the cases argued before it; the chief justice's vote carries no more weight than any other. When the chief justice is in the majority, he decides who writes the opinion of the court; otherwise, the senior justice in the majority assigns the task of writing the opinion.
1899, Supreme Court. From left to right: Justice Peckham, Justice Brewer, Justice Shiras, Justice Harlan, Chief Justice Fuller, Justice White, Justice Gray, Justice McKenna, Justice Brown.
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