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Supreme Court of the United States
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Established 1789
Country United States
Location Washington, D.C.
Coordinates 38°53′26.55″N 77°00′15.64″W / 38.8907083°N 77.0043444°W / 38.8907083; -77.0043444
Composition method Presidential nomination with Senate confirmation
Authorized by U.S. Constitution
Judge term length Life tenure
Number of positions 9, by statute
Website Supreme Court of the United States
Chief Justice of the United States
Currently John Roberts
Since September 29, 2005

The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States of America. Because of this, the Court leads the Judicial Branch of the United States Federal Government. It is the only U.S. court established by the United States Constitution. Its decisions are supposed to be followed by all other courts in the United States. The Court meets in its own building in Washington, D.C. However, until 1935, the Supreme Court met in the United States Capitol.

The Supreme Court chooses which cases it will decide on. Many people ask the Supreme Court to decide their cases, but the court refuses most of them. For the Supreme Court to decide a case, the case must be about federal law or be about the laws of more than one state. Cases must first be decided by a federal District Court and a federal Court of Appeals or by a state supreme court. Even after that, the Supreme Court can choose not to decide a case for any reason. There are some cases that can start in the Supreme Court and that the Supreme Court must decide, but those are usually rare.

The justices serve for life unless they want to retire earlier or are impeached. If a justice retires, he or she can still be asked to serve as a judge on a federal Court of Appeals. New justices are nominated (picked) by the President of the United States, and then must be approved by the United States Senate.


The Royal Exchange, New York City, the first meeting place of the Supreme Court
Old City Hall-Supreme Court Front
The court lacked its own building until 1935; from 1791 to 1801, it met in Philadelphia's City Hall, before moving to the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

The 1st United States Congress provided the detailed organization of a federal judiciary through the Judiciary Act of 1789. The Supreme Court, the country's highest judicial tribunal, was to sit in the nation's capital and would initially be composed of a chief justice and five associate justices. The act also divided the country into judicial districts, which were in turn organized into circuits. Justices were required to "ride circuit" and hold circuit court twice a year in their assigned judicial district.

Immediately after signing the act into law, President George Washington nominated the following people to serve on the court: John Jay for chief justice and John Rutledge, William Cushing, Robert H. Harrison, James Wilson, and John Blair Jr. as associate justices. All six were confirmed by the Senate on September 26, 1789; however, Harrison declined to serve, and Washington later nominated James Iredell in his place.

The Supreme Court held its inaugural session from February 2 through February 10, 1790, at the Royal Exchange in New York City, then the U.S. capital. A second session was held there in August 1790. The earliest sessions of the court were devoted to organizational proceedings, as the first cases did not reach it until 1791.


Panorama of United States Supreme Court Building at Dusk
The present U.S. Supreme Court building as viewed from the front
From the 1860s until the 1930s, the court sat in the Old Senate Chamber of the U.S. Capitol.

The Supreme Court first met on February 1, 1790, at the Merchants' Exchange Building in New York City. When Philadelphia became the capital, the court met briefly in Independence Hall before settling in Old City Hall from 1791 until 1800. After the government moved to Washington, D.C., the court occupied various spaces in the Capitol building until 1935, when it moved into its own purpose-built home. The four-story building was designed by Cass Gilbert in a classical style sympathetic to the surrounding buildings of the Capitol and Library of Congress, and is clad in marble. The building includes the courtroom, justices' chambers, an extensive law library, various meeting spaces, and auxiliary services including a gymnasium. The Supreme Court building is within the ambit of the Architect of the Capitol, but maintains its own Supreme Court Police, separate from the Capitol Police.

Located across First Street from the United States Capitol at One First Street NE and Maryland Avenue, the building is open to the public from 9 am to 4:30 pm weekdays but closed on weekends and holidays. Visitors may not tour the actual courtroom unaccompanied. There is a cafeteria, a gift shop, exhibits, and a half-hour informational film. When the court is not in session, lectures about the courtroom are held hourly from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm and reservations are not necessary. When the court is in session the public may attend oral arguments, which are held twice each morning (and sometimes afternoons) on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays in two-week intervals from October through late April, with breaks during December and February. Visitors are seated on a first-come first-served basis. One estimate is there are about 250 seats available. The number of open seats varies from case to case; for important cases, some visitors arrive the day before and wait through the night. The court releases opinions beginning at 10 am on scheduled "non-argument days" (also called opinion days) listed on a calendar at the court's homepage. These sessions, which typically last 15 to 30-minute, are also open to the public. From mid-May until the end of June, at least one opinion day is scheduled each week. Supreme Court Police are available to answer questions.

Current justices

There are currently nine justices on the Supreme Court: Chief Justice John Roberts and eight associate justices. Among the current members of the court, Clarence Thomas is the longest-serving justice, with a tenure of &&&&&&&&&&011865.&&&&&011,865 days (32 years, 177 days) as of April 17, 2024; the most recent justice to join the court is Ketanji Brown Jackson, whose tenure began on June 30, 2022, after being confirmed by the senate on April 7. Five of the nine justices were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote.

Current justices of the Supreme Court
Justice /
birthdate and place
Appointed by (party) SCV Age at Start date /
length of service
Start Present
File-Official roberts CJ cropped.jpg (Chief Justice)
Roberts, JohnJohn Roberts
January 27, 1955
Buffalo, New York
Bush, GWG. W. Bush
78–22 50 69 September 29, 2005
18 years, 201 days
Clarence Thomas official SCOTUS portrait (cropped).jpg Thomas, ClarenceClarence Thomas
June 23, 1948
Pin Point, Georgia
Bush, GHWG. H. W. Bush
52–48 43 75 October 23, 1991
32 years, 177 days
Samuel Alito official photo (cropped).jpg Alito, SamuelSamuel Alito
April 1, 1950
Trenton, New Jersey
Bush, GWG. W. Bush
58–42 55 74 January 31, 2006
18 years, 77 days
Sonia Sotomayor in SCOTUS robe crop.jpg Sotomayor, SoniaSonia Sotomayor
June 25, 1954
New York City, New York
Obama, Barack Obama
68–31 55 69 August 8, 2009
14 years, 253 days
Elena Kagan-1-1.jpg Kagan, ElenaElena Kagan
April 28, 1960
New York City, New York
Obama, Barack Obama
63–37 50 63 August 7, 2010
13 years, 254 days
Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch Official Portrait (cropped 2).jpg Gorsuch, NeilNeil Gorsuch
August 29, 1967
Denver, Colorado
Trump, Donald Trump
54–45 49 56 April 10, 2017
7 years, 7 days
Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh Official Portrait.jpg Kavanaugh, BrettBrett Kavanaugh
February 12, 1965
Washington, D.C.
Trump, Donald Trump
50–48 53 59 October 6, 2018
5 years, 194 days
Amy Coney Barrett official portrait.jpg Barrett, Amy ConeyAmy Coney Barrett
January 28, 1972
New Orleans, Louisiana
Trump, Donald Trump
52–48 48 52 October 27, 2020
3 years, 173 days
KBJackson.jpg Jackson, Ketanji BrownKetanji Brown Jackson
September 14, 1970
Washington, D.C.
53–47 51 53 June 30, 2022
1 year, 292 days

This graphical timeline depicts the length of each current Supreme Court justice's tenure (not seniority, as the chief justice has seniority over all associate justices regardless of tenure) on the court:

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Corte Suprema de los Estados Unidos para niños

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