The Supreme Court: The Judicial Branch
—Former Chief Justice William Rehnquist
The Supreme Court is the highest form of judicial authority in the United States. Only nine justices are given responsibility over the monumental judgments of the court, which handles matters of constitutional and federal law. Each vote is extremely influential in the structure and application of the American judicial system.
The U.S. Supreme Court is the general overseer of the entire American judicial system, and has more authority than any other court in the country. In fact, it was the only court identified by the Constitution in 1787. Much of the Supreme Court’s significance rests in its jurisdiction over both federal and lower-state issues. However, the Court is so significant that it only handles major cases or legal controversies where the law at large is in dispute. This section of the guide clarifies the form and function of the Supreme Court.
- SCOTUS is an acronym you will frequently come across during a Supreme Court search. It means Supreme Court of the United States.
- If at any point in your research you are confused about the legal terminology you encounter, visit Oyez’s glossary of Supreme Court terms.
- If you’re interested in reading more about the Supreme Court, three acclaimed books on the topic are: The Brethren, by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong, Jeffrey Toobin’s The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court, and Toobin’s 2001 work, Too Close to Call: The Thirty-Six-Day Battle to Decide the 2000 Election.
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