The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the country. It is composed of nine Justices who are responsible for deciding whether a law violates the Constitution. Brush up on your SCOTUS expertise with USAGov’s five facts to know:
The Supreme Court used to meet in the U.S. Capitol building. SCOTUS and Congress shared the building when the nation’s capital was first moved to Washington, D.C. It was supposed to be a temporary arrangement, but it lasted more than 100 years. Justices heard cases in various chambers and committee rooms until the Supreme Court Building was completed in 1935.
Anyone can be a Justice. The Constitution does not specify qualifications such as age, education, profession, or country of birth. Justices have ranged in age and six have served on the court despite being born outside the U.S. Every Justice appointed so far has been trained in the law.
The court receives thousands of requests each year. SCOTUS receives between 7,000 and 8,000 requests to review cases every year, but only hears oral arguments for 70 to 80 cases. Four Justices must vote in favor in order for a case to be heard. Other requests are granted and decided without argument.
Rulings can take months. Unlike courtroom TV shows where judges announce their ruling immediately, SCOTUS can take months to issue the Court’s opinion. Justices hear or review a case, hold private conferences, make a decision, and then issue a ruling.
Justices can only be removed from the court by impeachment. Justices are appointed for life, and they serve until their death, retirement, or removal in exceptional circumstances. Justices serve an average of 16 years.
Interested in learning more or teaching kids about the Supreme Court? Check out USAGov’s “How the Supreme Court Works” infographic.