I. Background • Only court mentioned in Constitution • Consists of 8 Associate Justices and 1 Chief Justice 1. Number of justices set by Congress 2. When position of CJ is vacant, the President can appoint someone already on the Court or someone who is not on the Court. C. Key powers: 1. Power of judicial review (established in Marburyv. Madison, 1803) 2. Power to interpret broadly-worded laws of Congress and the Constitution. 3. Power to overrule earlier SC decisions (Brown v. Board overturning Plessyv. Ferguson)
II. Jurisdiction • Original: in cases involving: 1. States 2. Ambassadors B. Appellate: in cases from: 1. Courts of Appeals 2. State supreme courts ****Cases from appellate jurisdiction are far more numerous than from original jurisdiction
III. How cases reach the SC • SC controls its own docket • Relatively few requests are granted to be heard (~80 per year). • Rule of 4: In order for the Court to decide a case, 4 Justices must agree to do so. • Denying a case may mean any number of things: 1. Case lacks a substantial federal issue. 2. Party lacks standing. 3. Court agrees with a lower court. 4. Case is a “political hot potato” that the Court does not want to touch.
IV. The SC at work • Term begins on first Monday in October and continues until the end of June. • Quorum of 6. • Before oral arguments, the Justices read the attorneys’ briefs. • Justices also read amicus curiae briefs. • Simple majority needed for decisions. In case of ties, previous court decision stands.
IV. The SC at work F. Written opinions: 1. Types: a. Unanimous: expresses opinion of all nine Justices. b. Majority: expresses opinion of majority c. Dissenting: expresses opinion of minority. d. Concurring: written by a Justice who agrees with majority’s conclusions, but for different reasons.
IMPORTANT NOTE • The Court cannot strike down something as unconstitutional if it is in the Constitution.