The Supreme Court of the United States is the head of the federal judiciary system. It is the highest judicial body that governs the United States. The court meets in the U.S. Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.
Members of the Supreme Court
The court is made up of one chief justice and eight associate justices. Each of the members is nominated by the seated president. Their confirmation is then approved by a majority vote of the U.S. Senate. Justices serve life tenures, which means that they can only leave the position upon their resignation, death or retirement-or if they are convicted or impeached.
The president who appointed the most justices was George Washington, who appointed 11. Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed nine. Jimmy Carter became the only president to serve a full term but never appoint a Supreme Court justice. The only president who served as a Supreme Court justice was William H. Taft, who is also credited with appointing the most justices, six, of any president serving only one term.
Two justices have appeared on U.S. currency. Salmon P. Chase found his way onto the $10,000 bill, and John Marshall's likeness was printed on the $500 bill. Marshall was later replaced by William McKinley, and then, in 1969, all large currency dollars were discontinued.
The courtroom and the decision-making process
The Supreme Court begins its term on the first Monday of October, ending in June or July. In session, the justices are seated by seniority, with the chief justice in the middle. Sittings and recesses alternate every two weeks, with hearings of cases during the sittings. Writing and delivering opinions happens during the recesses. When hearing oral arguments, each party has a half hour to present to the court, including the justices' questions. The justices deliberate among themselves and cast their votes in a conference room, usually a few days later. The opinion of the court is then drafted and used for revisions. When all the members' revisions are complete, the opinion is announced and made public. The decisions then become part of the Constitutional law of the United States.
History of the Supreme Court
The first session of the Supreme Court occurred in 1790. The justices were expected to wear wigs, as had been the tradition in England. However, Justice William Cushing was the only one of the Supreme Court justices to appear in a wig, and he was promptly ridiculed and removed it. As a result, justices still do not wear wigs to this day.
The salary of the early justices was $3,500 in 1789, while the chief justice made $4,000. The chief justice's salary in 2010 was $223,500, and the associate justices made $213,900.
The justice who served the longest on the bench was William O. Douglas. He served for 36 years and six months and retired in November 1975. The shortest term was that of John Rutledge. He was chief justice for only four months when the Senate rejected his appointment. Only one member of the court has been impeached: Samuel Chase in 1805.