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Portal:Supreme Court of the United States

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Introduction

Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg

The Supreme Court of the United States (sometimes colloquially referred to by the acronym SCOTUS) is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States. Established pursuant to Article III of the U.S. Constitution in 1789, it has original jurisdiction over a small range of cases, such as suits between two or more states, and those involving ambassadors. It also has ultimate (and largely discretionary) appellate jurisdiction over all federal court and state court cases that involve a point of constitutional or statutory law. The Court has the power of judicial review, the ability to invalidate a statute for violating a provision of the Constitution or an executive act for being unlawful. However, it may act only within the context of a case in an area of law over which it has jurisdiction. The Court may decide cases having political overtones, but does not have power to decide nonjusticiable political questions. Each year it agrees to hear about 100–150 of the more than 7,000 cases that it is asked to review.

According to federal statute, the Court normally consists of the Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices who are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Once appointed, justices have lifetime tenure unless they resign, retire, or are removed from office. Each justice has a single vote in deciding the cases argued before it; the chief justice's vote counts no more than that of any other justice. However, the Chief Justice—when in the majority—decides who writes the court's opinion. Otherwise, the senior justice in the majority assigns the writing of a decision. In modern discourse, the justices are often categorized as having conservative, moderate, or liberal philosophies of law and of judicial interpretation. While a far greater number of cases in recent history have been decided unanimously, decisions in cases of the highest profile have often come down to just one single vote, thereby exposing the justices' ideological beliefs that track with those philosophical or political categories. The Court meets in the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. Its law-enforcement arm, the United States Marshals Service, is under the oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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A 1904 photograph of Wong Kim Ark.
United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898), was a United States Supreme Court decision that set an important legal precedent about the role of jus soli (birth in the United States) as a factor in determining a person's claim to United States citizenship. The citizenship status of a man (Wong Kim Ark pictured) born in the United States to Chinese parents was challenged because of a law restricting Chinese immigration and prohibiting immigrants from China from becoming naturalized U.S. citizens, but the Supreme Court ruled that the citizenship language in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution could not be limited in its effect by an act of Congress.

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President-elect Barack Obama signs a guest book as Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. looks on during a visit to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on Weds. Jan. 14, 2009. Painting is of William Howard Taft, the only man to serve as President and Chief Justice.
Credit: Pete Souza

President-elect Barack Obama signs a guest book as Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. looks on during a visit to the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on January 14, 2009. Painting is of William Howard Taft, the only man to serve as President and Chief Justice.

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Salmon P. Chase
Salmon Portland Chase (1808 – 1873) was an American politician and jurist who served as U.S. Senator from Ohio and the 23rd Governor of Ohio; as U.S. Treasury Secretary under President Abraham Lincoln; and as the sixth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Chase was one of the most prominent members of the new Republican Party before becoming Chief Justice. Chase articulated the "Slave Power conspiracy" thesis well before Lincoln. He coined the slogan of the Free Soil Party, "Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men." He devoted his energies to the destruction of what he considered the Slave Power – the conspiracy of Southern slave owners to seize control of the federal government and block the progress of liberty.

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