How Does the US Supreme Court Work?
Wherever you place yourself on the political spectrum of Right to Left or Conservative to Liberal, even if you typically don’t pay much attention to politics, you’ve likely heard that our country is appointing a new Supreme Court Justice. Since the decisions that are handed down by the Supreme Court have an incalculable impact on its citizens, it’s important to understand how the highest court in our land works. At Todd Coolidge Law Firm, a criminal defense law firm serving the greater Phoenix area, we’d like to break it down for you.
The US Supreme Court was established by the Constitution under Article III, Section I. It first met as a court all the way back in 1790 and consists of nine Justices who are nominated by the President and then must be confirmed by the Senate. The length of the term they serve is up to them—meaning, they can serve until they die or become physically or mentally incapable of serving, or they can step down so that a new justice can be appointed. Most appointed justices choose to serve for life.
The Supreme Court is a vital part of our constitutional government for several reasons. First, it’s the highest court in the land and therefore, the last place where justice can be sought. Second, it plays a valuable role in ensuring that each branch of government recognizes their limits to power. Third, it protects civil rights by striking down laws that are unconstitutional. And lastly, if the views of the majority begin to change, it ensures that those views do not undermine the fundamental values common to all Americans, e.g., freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and due process of law.
The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over certain cases generally involving disputes between states, ambassadors, other highly-ranked ministers, and for the most part, over any other case that involves a point of constitutional and/or federal law. In addition, they have appellate jurisdiction, which covers the majority of cases over which they preside. This means they can choose to hear important cases that are being appealed from a lower court, usually from the federal courts of appeal.
And how do they choose these cases? The court is open to receive petitions for review, but is under no requirement to hear specific cases. Each year they receive around 7,000 to 10,000 cases and will only accept about 100 to 150 of those cases. In some trials, the Justices are involved in establishing new laws. But generally speaking, they rule on cases that require interpretation as to the original meaning of the US Constitution.
Cases like Brown v. Board of Education, which overturned segregation in schools, or Miranda v. Arizona, which requires that all prisoners be advised of their rights before being questioned, are often what we think of when it comes to important Supreme Court decisions. These, and many other cases that have been decided at the Supreme Court level can make us glad we live in America, where we can trust that our liberties will be upheld by the highest court in the nation. And on a local level, when it comes to seeking the right criminal defense law firm in Phoenix, Todd Coolidge has the experience and know-how that puts his clients at ease. Schedule your free consultation today.