Overview of the United States Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court: The Judicial Branch

“I believe that the establishment of the Supreme Court of the United States as a constitutional court … is the most significant single contribution the United States has made to the art of government.”
—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.

Overview of the United States Supreme Court

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.

Dulcinea's Insight

  • 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.

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