What type of cases heard by the SCOTUS?
Birth, death, marriage, life, what it means to be a person, to have equal rights, to be fair—this is the stuff the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) examines every year, making decisions that become the law of the land.
“The justices of the Supreme Court establish—by interpreting laws and a constitution—a set of laws for the country. Without that we have no laws,” says Nina Totenberg, legal affairs correspondent for National Public Radio.
Thousands of cases are sent to the Court every year. If four of the nine justices agree a case should be heard, the Court asks the federal courts to send up all the information about the case so they can review it (known as granting a writ of certiorari). The Court chooses cases with national significance: Do kids have the right to pray in school? Should workers pay fees to labor unions if they don’t want to be a member? Did President Obama exceed his powers in trying to protect illegal immigrants from deportation? They also take cases when the lower courts can’t agree how to interpret the law involved; SCOTUS’ decision then becomes the precedent that every court in the U.S. has to follow.
DID YOU KNOW?
- The Supreme Court building is one of the only federal buildings ever to come in under budget. Congress authorized $9,740,000 for its construction; the building was completed and furnished for $94,000 less. The remainder was returned to the Treasury.
- 10,000 – Approximate number of cases that appeal every year to the Supreme Court
- 75–80 – Number of cases the Court agrees to hear
- $249,300 – Yearly salary of the justices (the chief justice makes $11,400 more)
- 30 – Maximum number of minutes an attorney has to argue a case
- 100–150 – Number of first-come, first-served public seats in the courtroom
- 0 – TV cameras in the courtroom. Proceedings are never televised for security reasons, to discourage lawyers from playing to the camera or being intimidated or influenced by the presence of the media.