Supreme Court of the United States

highest court in the United States
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The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest federal court of the United States. Established pursuant to Article III of the United States Constitution in 1789, it has ultimate (and largely discretionary) appellate jurisdiction over all federal courts and over state court cases involving issues of federal law, plus original jurisdiction over a small range of cases. In the legal system of the United States, the Supreme Court is the final interpreter of federal constitutional law, although it may only act within the context of a case in which it has jurisdiction.

The U.S. Supreme Court Building

The Court consists of the Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices who are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Once appointed, justices have life tenure unless they resign, retire, take senior status, or are removed after impeachment (though no justice has ever been removed).


  • I had never before argued a Supreme Court case on my own. Since arguments in that court are thirty minutes in length per side, and since most of the time consumed in argument is taken up with responses to questions of the Court, Dean [Ringel] and I devoted most of our preparation to three overlapping issues, ones that have consumed my attention in every later Supreme Court argument as well. The first was jurisprudential in nature. What rule of law were we urging the Court to adopt? How would it apply in any future case? What would be its impact on First Amendment legal doctrine?
  • In my conception of it, the primary role of the Court is to decide cases. From the decision of cases, of course, some changes develop, but to try to create or substantially change civil or criminal procedure, for example, by judicial decision is the worst possible way to do it. The Supreme Court is simply not equipped to do that job properly.
  • The first opinion the Court ever filed has a dissenting opinion. Dissent is a tradition of this Court... When someone is writing for the Court, he hopes to get eight others to agree with him, so many of the majority opinions are rather stultified.
  • The Court's great power is its ability to educate, to provide moral leadership.
  • This Court is forever adding new stories to the temples of constitutional law, and the temples have a way of collapsing when one story too many is added.
  • Civil liberties had their origin and must find their ultimate guaranty in the faith of the people. If that faith should be lost, five or nine men in Washington could not long supply its want.
  • The court is the least abstract of institutions. It is nine men, nine very human men, participating in a process that can be impressive or disturbing, grave or funny. And contrary to the general impression, the process is more visible than most of what goes on in government.
    • Anthony Lewis, quoted in Congressional Quarterly's Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court (1979), p. viii.
  • We want a Supreme Court which will do justice under the Constitution -- not over it. In our courts we want a government of laws and not of men.
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt (March 9, 1937), reported in Conrad Black, Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom‎ (2005), p. 411.
  • In the United States at the present day, the reverence which the Greeks gave to the oracles and the Middle Ages to the Pope is given to the Supreme Court. Those who have studied the working of the American Constitution know that the Supreme Court is part of the forces engaged in the protection of the plutocracy. But of the men who know this, some are on the side of the plutocracy, and therefore do nothing to weaken the traditional reverence for the Supreme court, while others are discredited in the eyes of the ordinary quiet citizens by being said to be subversive and Bolshevik.
  • For nearly 40 years, the Supreme Court has been evading the 14th Amendment's provision of "equal protection" of the law for all, in order to let government-imposed group preferences and quotas continue, under the name of "affirmative action." Equal rights under the law have been made to vanish by saying the magic word "diversity," whose sweeping benefits are simply assumed and proclaimed endlessly, rather than demonstrated.
  • And as I say to you, whenever you put a man on the Supreme Court, he ceases to be your friend, you can be sure of that.

Quotes about the selection of justicesEdit


  • Why would we cut off the national debate about this next justice? Why would we squelch the voice of the people? Why would we deny the voters a chance to weigh in on the make-up of the Supreme Court?
    • Tom Cotton, speech on the Senate floor (9 March 2016)
  • In an election year, we have a long tradition, that a lame-duck president doesn't get to jam a Supreme Court nominee through on the very end.
    • Ted Cruz, speaking on Meet the Press (15 February 2016)
  • I want you to use my words against me. If there is a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say, "Lindsey Graham said let's let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination." And you could use my words against me and you'd be absolutely right.
    • Lindsey Graham, at a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee (10 March 2016)
  • When an election is under way the American people are about to weigh in on who's going to be the president. And that's the person, whoever it may be, who ought to be making this appointment.


  • We will move forward without delay and in deliberate fashion. We will process the president's nominee and I believe that we will confirm that nominee as well.
    • Tom Cotton, interview on Fox News Sunday (20 September 2020)
  • I believe the right thing to do is for the Senate to take up this nomination and to confirm the nominee before election day.
    • Ted Cruz, interview on This Week (20 September 2020)
  • I will support President @realDonaldTrump in any effort to move forward regarding the recent vacancy created by the passing of Justice Ginsburg.
  • The Senate has more than sufficient time to process a nomination. History and precedent make that perfectly clear.

External linksEdit