Supreme Court of the United States
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 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.
- Warren E. Burger, "Excerpts From Interview With Chief Justice Burger on Role of the Supreme Court", The New York Times (July 4, 1971).
- 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.
- William O. Douglas, New York Times interview, (29 October 1973).
- The Court's great power is its ability to educate, to provide moral leadership.
- William O. Douglas, Time Magazine interview, (12 November 1973).
- Nine, nine... There have been nine men there for a long, long time, right? So why not nine women?
- 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.
- Justice Robert H. Jackson, Douglas v. Jeannette, 319 U.S. 157, 182 (1943).
- 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.
- Bertrand Russell, Power (1937, reprinted Routledge Classics, 2004), p. 53.
- 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.
- Harry S. Truman, reported in Truman Speaks (1960), p. 59.