The Supreme Court is the highest judicial body in the United States of America. Article III, of the United States Constitution provides that “the judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”
The Supreme Court of the United States was created in accordance with this provision and by authority of the Judiciary Act. President George Washington signed the Judiciary Act on September 24, 1789, and later that day nominated John Jay of New York to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Alongside the Chief Justice, a number of justices were also appointed to serve under him.
Alongside the Chief Justice, a number of justices are also appointed to serve under him. The Judiciary Act called for the appointment of six justices. As the United Sates grew geographically, Congress increased the number of justices to seven members in 1807; nine in 1837 and by 1863 had reached ten.
The Supreme Court assembled for the first time on February 2, 1790, in New York. As the highest judicial body, it often has the final say in a case.
Until 1935 the Supreme Court did not have a building of its own, instead it met in various locations in New York and Philadelphia until 1800, when Washington D.C became the nation’s capital. Between 1800 and 1935, the Court was held within the United States Capitol building, until moving to its current location on One First Street Northeast, Washington, D.C.
Over the years the Supreme Court has played a very important part in shaping the laws and lives of American Citizens. Decisions made in the Court have helped protect the rights of citizens to equality, such as the case of Brown v. Board of Education (1954) in which the Supreme Court ruled against a segregated school system, and Miranda v. Arizona (1966), which upheld a citizens right to be informed of their 5th Amendment rights against self- incrimination.
Each term of the Supreme Court begins on the first Monday in October, and runs through late June or July of the following year. Each term is divided between “sittings” for the hearing of cases and delivering of opinions, and “recesses” for the consideration of cases and law and writing of opinions. The sittings and recesses alternate every two weeks. Approximately 10,000 petitions are filed with the Court in the course of a Term.
In the late 19th century Chief justice Melville W. Fuller introduced the tradition of the “conference handshake”, during which each justice shakes hands with the others before taking their seats at the bench or the beginning private Conferences. The practice is designed to remind justices that, although they may have differences of opinion, they share a common purpose.
To date, there have been 112 Justices on the Supreme Court, including 17 Chief Justices. In 1789, the Chief Justice’s salary was $4,000, while associate justices made $3,500. In 2010, the Chief Justice’s salary had risen to $223,500, with associate justices receiving $213,900.