The Supreme Court of the United States of America

The Supreme Court is the highest court of the United States and the only one specifically created by the Constitution. A decision of the Supreme Court cannot be appealed by any other court. The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in only two kinds of cases: those involving foreign dignitaries and those in which a state is a party. All other cases reach the Court on appeal from a lower court. Most of the cases involve interpretation of the law or of the intent of Congress in passing a piece of legislation. A significant amount of the work of the Supreme Court , however, consists of determining whether legislative or executive acts conform to the Constitution.

The Supreme Court of the United States consists of nine justices appointed for life by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. One justice is appointed as the Chief Justice and has additional administrative duties related both to the Supreme Court and to the entire federal court system. The Supreme Court meets on the first Monday of October each year and usually continues in session through June. The Supreme Court receives and disposes of about 5,000 cases each year, most by a brief decision that the subject matter is either not proper or not of sufficient importance to warrant review by the full court. Cases are heard en banc, which means by all the justices sitting together in open court.

As of 2008 the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court earns an annual salary of $217,400 per year and Associate Justices earn $193,000.

Biographies of the current members of the court are available on the court’s website.

The Supreme Court

Chief Justice of the United States
John Roberts

Associate Justices
Anthony M. Kennedy
Clarence Thomas
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Stephen G. Breyer
Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr.
Sonia Sotomayor
Elena Kagan
Sandra Day O’Connor (Retired)
David H. Souter (Retired)
John Paul Stevens (Retired

Supreme Court Decisions

Each year the Supreme Court decides about 150 cases of great national importance and interest. The Court’s website has information on the issuance and availabiity of the opinions delivered.

  • The FedWorld/FLITE Supreme Court Decisions website carries a file of the full text of over 7000 Supreme Court opinions dating from 1937 through 1975, from volumes 300 through 422 of U.S. Reports Supreme Court Decisions. Decisions are available as ASCII text files searchable by case name (i.e. Roe v. Wade) or keyword.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court – Equal Justice Under Law  (via ShareAmerica)
    As an institution, the Supreme Court commands respect, legitimacy, and prestige both in the United States and abroad. This 2-page pamphlet describes many aspects of the U.S. Supreme Court. Chief Justices John G. Roberts Jr. and Solicitor General Elena Kagan present their introductions and contributions by legal scholars and journalists focus on the elements of judicial decision making and independence of the justices. Four Court officials and a former Supreme Court law clerk also describe their jobs.