Supreme Court of the United States


Supreme Court of the United States

Final court of appeal in the U.S. judicial system and final interpreter of the Constitution of the United States. The Supreme Court was created by the Constitutional Convention of 1787 as the head of a federal court system, though it was not formally established until Congress passed the Judiciary Act in 1789. It was granted authority to act in cases arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the U.S.; in controversies to which the U.S. is a party; in controversies between states or between citizens of different states; in cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; and in cases affecting ambassadors or other ministers or consuls. Its size, which is set by Congress, varied between 6 and 10 members before being set at 9 in 1869. Justices are appointed by the president but must be confirmed by the Senate. The court has exercised the power of judicial review since 1803, when it first declared part of a law unconstitutional in Marbury v. Madison, though the power is not explicitly granted to it by the Constitution. Though the court can sometimes serve as a trial court through its original jurisdiction, relatively few cases reach the court in this manner; most cases arise by appeal or by certiorari. Among the most important doctrinal sources used by the Supreme Court have been the commerce, due-process, and equal-protection clauses of the Constitution. It also has often ruled on controversies involving civil liberties (see civil liberty), including freedom of speech and the right of privacy. Much of its work consists of clarifying, refining, and testing the Constitution's philosophic ideals and translating them into working principles.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on Supreme Court of the United States, visit Britannica.com.

Seen & Heard

What made you look up Supreme Court of the United States? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.