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United States Supreme Court

Basics of the US Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States. It is also the head of one of the three main branches of government: the judicial branch. (The other two are the executive branch and the legislative branch. The Supreme Court can rule laws and executive actions unconstitutional using the power of judicial review.

Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court

Typically, courts have either original jurisdiction or appellate jurisdiction. The Supreme Court has both depending on the circumstances. While it is mostly an appellate court, certain cases can originate at the Supreme Court level including cases involving diplomats or when a state is involved. The Supreme Court has the power to decide if it will hear a case on appeal. If it does not choose to hear the case, the lower court ruling stands. If it hears a case, it can choose to uphold or overturn the lower court's ruling.

Makeup of the Supreme Court

Currently, the Supreme Court consists of nine members, although this number is not set by the Constitution and can be changed by Congress. The head of the Supreme Court is called the Chief Justice. Justices are chosen by the president and confirmed by the Senate. They serve for life unless they retire or are impeached.

Learn More About the Supreme Court

Following are a list of frequently asked questions that can help guide your study of the US Supreme Court:

Judicial Branch Glossary Terms

Key Supreme Court Cases

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