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Supreme Court of the United States

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The Roberts Court, 2010
Back row (left to right): Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, and Elena Kagan. Front row (left to right): Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States of America. Because of this, the Court leads the Judicial Branch of the United States Federal Government. It is the only U.S. court established by the United States Constitution, and its decisions are supposed to be followed by all other courts in the United States. The Court meets in its own building in Washington, D.C. However, until 1935, the Supreme Court met in the United States Capitol.

The number of judges—called "justices"—on the Supreme Court has changed over time. There are 9 justices on the court now: one Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. Courts are unofficially named for the Chief Justice; the current Court is called the "Roberts Court" after Chief Justice John Roberts.

The Supreme Court chooses which cases it will decide on. Many people ask the Supreme Court to decide their cases, but the court refuses most of them. For the Supreme Court to decide a case, the case must be about federal law or be about the laws of more than one state. Cases must first be decided by a federal District Court and a federal Court of Appeals or by a state supreme court. Even after that, the Supreme Court can choose not to decide a case for any reason. There are some cases which start in the Supreme Court and which the Supreme Court must decide, but they are very rare.

The justices serve for life unless they want to retire earlier or are impeached. If a justice retires, he or she can still be asked to serve as a judge on a federal Court of Appeals. New justices are nominated (picked) by the President of the United States, and then must be approved by the Senate. Usually, the President tries to pick someone who is not too old and who he thinks shares his legal or political beliefs. Sometimes, the judges have surprised people when they turn out to be more liberal or conservative than expected.

The current Justices are: