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US Supreme Court History

The government of the US has three major branches, which are the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. The Supreme court fall under the judiciary where it is the highest court. It was established by the Judiciary Act (1789), with 6 personnel consisting of one chief justice and five associate justices. The act defined the jurisdiction of the court to include the appellate jurisdiction in civil cases that are large and the cases ruled on federal statutes by state courts. The Supreme size of the this Court expanded to accommodate newly established circuits as the nation enlarged. The court also has original jurisdiction over certain cases such as disputes between states, cases involving public ministers, and ambassadors. The size of the court increased up to ten justices when the tenth circuit was created in the west coast. However, these numbers reduced to 9 in 1866 and has remained the same till now. The supreme Court of the constitution is established in Article III, Section II of the US constitution. In 1891, the circuit court of appeals authorized the review of certiorari by the judges and automatic appeal to the Supreme Court was restricted. The court operated for 140 years without a building, but it used the US Capitol building until 1929, when Chief Justice William Howard suggested the construction of the court which was completed in 1932.

The Supreme Court is the only body that has the ability to interpret and arbitrate the constitution. It is the only court with the right to interpret the constitution, hence the court gives power to scrutinize other aspects of the government. It checks the powers of the Executive and Legislature to ensure that they do not abuse the powers they have (Trueman). According to the Independent Hall Association, the Court receives approximately 7,000 petitions in a year where these cases compete over which case the court will hear. The Justices have the power to choose what case to hear where  about 90 percent of 100-120 cases to be heard are chosen by writ of certiorari (an order for the lower court to send up the case records). The court considers choosing cases that the dispute involving two parties has a far- reaching implication. The court also considers cases handled by two lower courts, but reached conflicting decisions where it looks closely at the decision and to determine which one contradicts with earlier decisions of the supreme courts.  It also has power to hearing and deciding a case. Hearing kick off in October and the last case heard in June every year.

The justice receives a summary of arguments for lawyers, interest groups or government agencies that have an interest in the case. Hearing of the case is open to the public with time restrictions where each party is given 30 minutes to present their arguments and justice asks questions and debate during the allocated time.  The judges then meet privately and discuss the case sharing their opinions, debating on the issues and eventually arrive into a conclusion.  It also has original jurisdiction  over certain cases such as cases involving an ambassador and public ministers or dispute between two or more states.

The supreme court also has the power to announce the decision for implementation.  The justice reveals individual opinions and with an explanation of each side where the majority presents their opinion and the other justices whose point did not prevail release their dissenting opinion. However, the court has limited powers to implement the decision, it has to rely on the legislative and executive branches to support implementation of the decision. Therefore, the court sets the direction and the other branches follows the decision  by the court for real change to take place. Despite the limitation of the court on implementation of their design, it  sets policies that impact social change of the public. Some of the changes that have occurred in the power of the court since its creation is that the court can now rule in policy cases such as civil rights and criminal rights. The court has also established standing rules, employed structural remedies  and broad relief in remedies so as to enforce judicial rulings, all of which have expanded the powers of the court.

The supreme court officers are in charge of the functioning and performance of the court. They consist of the Chief Justice and 8 Associate Justices  as the Congress has fixed. The Justices are nominated and appointed by the President of US with  the Senate’s advice and consent. Other officers include the, Counselor who is appointed by the Chief Justice; Librarian, Clerk, Reporter of Decisions and the Marshal who are appointed by the court; the Curator, Public Information Officer, Director information technology and Court Counsel appointed by the Chief justice and the court (Supreme Court of the United States).

The counsel to the chief justice  is an administrative assistant. The title was established by the Congress in 2008 since they were previously called Administrative assistance. The duty of the counselor is to help the Chief Justice in both administrative and non-administrative responsibilities, such as monitoring development in the court and judicial administration, and provides research for public statements of Chief Justice. The Librarian, Clerk, Reporter of Decisions and the Marshal, work under the court where the Clerk assists with administration of the business of the court. Currently, the clerk oversees the automated systems implementation  for the case-filling, docketing and document retrieval, and also manage the documentary record of the court. In accordance with the Administrative Office of the United State Courts (1939), the Marchal responsibility is to provide protection to judge, jurors and witnesses, and also executes legal orders of federal government. In 1887, the first Librarian was appointed in the supreme court after the establishment of the Supreme Court library which was under Librarian congress until 1935 when the court moved to its present building. They provide law books and cases reported to the judges and other staff, and manage the library of the supreme court. They are allowed to appoint and supervise their assistants. All the court officer work together to ensure that they meet the requirements of the constitutions.

The Court has handled many cases and some of the them are as follows. In 1818, the court handled a case of McCulloch v. Maryland, which was one of the landmark cases. The justices determined that US had the authority of establishing a federal bank. It further declared that state did not have the right to impose tax on federal bank. This ruling was in favor of McCulloch, who said no to pay tax of Maryland (Wogan).

In 2008, a case in District of Columbia v. Heller was decided, where the decision affirmed that of the court of Appeals of Columbia Circuit, finding that the 2nd amendment to the constitution protect individual right to own guns. The decision overturned the rule on ban of gun ownership in the District of Columbia which had been enacted in 1976.

Miranda v. Arizon of 1966, Miranda had confessed that he had committed the crime, after he was questioned by the police during arrest. The court did not convict him on the basis that he was not informed of his right against Self Incrimination (5th Amendment). This impacted the world today where Miranda warnings are standards feature used during arrests.

In 1954 the Supreme Court decided on a case of Brown v. Board of Education. The court decision overturned Plessey v. Ferguson, where it stated that separate but equal facilities violated the constitution requirements. The ruling mandated desegregation in schools on the bases of race.

In 2015 the court has ruled on a case of Obergefell v. Hodges, where the plaintiffs argued that the state laws violated the clause of Equal Protection and Due Process of the 14th Amendments. The decision made by the Supreme Court struck down the ban on same sex marriage by the state, granting the constitutional right to marry to Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans (Wogan).

The Supreme Court of America is great; however, it has limitations in powers to the state.  The Supreme Court cannot initiate its own cases, but they only come to it from lower courts apart from in the limited area where it has original jurisdiction. This limits the Justice from selecting their laws and policies that he or she disagree and bring it before the court. The court is also limited to the ability to enforce its ruling. It must rely on the legislature and executive for the enforcement of the decision. The court aims at maintaining its position in America as the highest court. Therefore, the court must ensure that it works with the Executive and Legislature without conflicts which may tarnish their reputation to the public. The laws that the court interprets are made by the legislature and written in a clear and concise way hence limits the court open interpretation. Finally the greatest limitation experienced by the court is politicians themselves because the court relies on them to enforce their decisions. Therefore, the court must consider the interest of the politicians so that the decision they make will be listened and abided by the politicians willingly.

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