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THE COURT SYSTEM

What does the U.S. Constitution say about the U.S. Supreme Court?

Article III, Section I of the Constitution provides: "The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish." In another part of the Constitution, it refers to a "Chief Justice" of the Court, as the person who shall preside over impeachment proceedings of the president. Article I, Section III—the part of Article I that describes the powers of the Senate—provides: "When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside."

The Chief Justices in U.S. Supreme Court History the court system

Chief Justice

Years as Chief

John Jay

1789-1795

John Rutledge

1795

Oliver Ellsworth

1796-1800

John Marshall

1801-1835

Roger Taney

1836-1864

Salmon P. Chase

1864-1873

Morrison Waite

1874-1888

Melville W. Fuller

1888-1910

Edward White

1910-1921

William Howard Taft

1921-1930

Charles Evans Hughes

1930-1941

Harlan Fiske Stone

1941-1946

Fred Vinson

1946-1953

Earl Warren

l953-l969

Warren Burger

l969-l986

William Rehnquist

1986-2005

John G. Roberts Jr.

2005-

Where did the U.S. Supreme Court first meet?

The U.S. Supreme Court first met in the Royal Exchange Building on Broad Street in New York City on February 2, 1790. The Court met on the second floor of the building in the afternoons, as the New York state legislature met in the room during the morning hours. The Court met in New York for only one year, meeting in Philadelphia the next year.

When did the U.S. Supreme Court get its own building?

Surprisingly, the U.S. Supreme Court did not receive its own building until 1935. The Court had met for more than 145 years before it moved into the Supreme Court Building, located at First and East Capitol Streets NE, in Washington. In 1929, Chief Justice William Howard Taft (a former president of the United States) managed to convince Congress to fund a building for the U.S. Supreme Court.

What is the nickname of the Supreme Court Building?

The nickname of the building is the Marble Palace, because white marble represents the primary material used in the building. According to the Supreme Court's Web site, $3 million worth of marble was used in its construction. Famous attorney and scholar John Paul Frank published a book about the U.S. Supreme Court in 1958 entitled Marble Palace: The Supreme Court in American Life.

The first U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice was John Jay, who served on the bench from 1789 to 1795 (Library of Congress).

The first U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice was John Jay, who served on the bench from 1789 to 1795 (Library of Congress).

How long do justices serve on the Supreme Court?

U.S. Supreme Court justices—and all other federal judges—serve for life. Article III, Section I provides: "The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office."

Many times through the years, members of Congress have introduced measures to limit the tenure of justices—to 10-year terms, 20-year terms, and other time allotments—but none of these measures has been enacted.

Which justices have served the longest in history?

Justice William O. Douglas served more than 36 years on the Court from 1949-1975. However, many other justices have served more than 30 years, including: Stephen J. Field (34 years), John Marshall (34 years), Joseph Story (34 years), John Marshall Harlan (34 years), Hugo Black (34 years), William Brennan (33 years), William Rehnquist (33 years), John McLean (32 years), James Wayne (32 years), and William Johnson (30 years). Current U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens could break the record for longevity if he serves until July 2012. However, as of this printing, speculation has indicated that Stevens will retire in 2010.

 
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