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The Supreme Court. Separation of Powers. Purpose of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of the United States was created in accordance with provision and by authority of the Judiciary Act of Sept. 24, 1798 and was organized on Feb. 2, 1790.

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purpose of the supreme court
Purpose of the Supreme Court
  • The Supreme Court of the United States was created in accordance with provision and by authority of the Judiciary Act of Sept. 24, 1798 and was organized on Feb. 2, 1790.
  • Determines constitutionality of laws or executive orders
  • The Federal Court System- enforces the laws, rules & regulations.
structure of the supreme court
Structure of the Supreme Court
  • U.S. Supreme Court→ U.S. Courts of Appeals→ U.S. District Courts
  • Consists of the Chief Justice and 8 associate justices. There is an uneven number of justices so that one side always wins.
  • The justices often set policies that lead to real social change.
  • Cases involve important questions about Constitution or Federal Law.
  • up to 24 cases can be argued at one sitting.
  • No jury and no witnesses are heard.
  • Experience, Political Ideology , Party & Personal Loyalties, Ethnicity & Gender, all factors that make up a court
function of the supreme court
Function of the Supreme Court
  • Hearings begin in October & last cases are usually heard in June.
  • They are open to the public and are timed very strictly.
  • ‘Rule of Four’ governs choices, four justices vote to hear a case, all nine agree to it.
  • The Court receives about 7,000 petitions every term
  • About 90% of the 100 to 120 cases are chosen by writ of certiorari, an order to send up a case record from a lower court.
  • About 1,200 applications can be acted upon by a single judge.
marbury vs madison 1803
Marbury Vs. Madison (1803)
  • At the end of his term, John Adams’ Secretary of State never delivered papers to commission William Marbury as Justice of the Peace in the District of Columbia, although he had been appointed.
  • Thomas Jefferson, when he took office, told his secretary of state (Madison) not to deliver the documents to Marbury.
  • Marbury sued
  • Established Judicial Review
  • The Supreme Court established that it was the court itself that had the final say on what the Constitution means.
dred scott vs sandford 1857
Dred Scott Vs. Sandford (1857)
  • Runaway slave, Dred Scott, was caught
  • Scott sued his late owner’s wife, claimed he was no longer a slave since he had lived in a free state.
  • Court decided a slave was property & had no rights under the Constitution (essentially true at the time).
  • The “free state” policy of Minnesota didn’t vindicate his claim to freedom.
  • The decision added to the pre Civil War tensions.
plessy vs ferguson 1896
Plessy Vs. Ferguson (1896)
  • Homer Plessy, who was 1/8th black attempted to ride in a designated white railroad car.
  • He was arrested.
  • Argued arrest violated the 13th&14th amendments
  • found guilty.
  • Upheld conviction
  • Segregation is constitutional

if separate but equal.

brown vs board of education 1954
Brown Vs. Board of Education (1954)
  • The Brown family sued because daughters had to cross dangerous railroad switchyard to get to black school, while white school was closer.
  • Even though black & white facilities similar, they could never be equal.
  • Court decided that Separate

but Equal policy violated

Equal Protection Clause of

Fourteenth Amendment.

legal cases contributed to these concepts
Legal cases contributed to these concepts:

Marbury Vs. Madison


Checks and Balances,

Judicial Review

Dred Scott Vs. Sandford

Due Process

Plessy Vs. Ferguson

Equal Protection under law

Brown Vs. Board of Education

Equal Protection under the law


Separation of powers divides national government into 3 branches- Executive, Judicial, & Legislative. Each branch has limits and powers written in Constitution, no branch having more powers than another.

Federalismsharing of powers between National & Stategovernments.


What is the role of the Supreme Court?

There are nine justices on the Supreme Court. Why is there an uneven number?

The Supreme Court receives about 7,000 petitions per term, so the justices vote on which cases to hear. How many votes are needed in order for the Supreme Court to hear a case?

Supreme Court justices are nominated by who?

Supreme Court cases contributed to the concepts of federalism, checks and balances, judicial review, due process, and equal protection under the law.