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What is the Supreme Court?

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There are a lot of famous courtrooms. “The People’s Court.” Judge Judy’s court. Even that military court in “A Few Good Men.” But what about the Supreme Court? What exactly is it and what do those justices do?

If you remember back to high school civics class, the U.S. government has three branches. The legislative branch writes the laws. The executive branch enforces the laws. And the judicial branch interprets the laws to decide if they are constitutional.

Just like there are cities, counties, and states, the judicial branch includes local, state, and regional courts. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the judicial branch, which makes it the most important court in the entire country.

Sometimes lower courts will disagree on how a case should be decided. A court in one region may say that a law is constitutional but a court in another region may believe the same law should be limited or overturned. The Supreme Court sorts out the decisions and has final say on whether laws are constitutional.

The Supreme Court has nine judges called Justices who are appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. The Justices serve for life. A decision happens when five justices, a majority, agree on an outcome.

Since the Supreme Court is flooded with over 10,000 requests a year to review cases that have been decided by lower courts, they can only choose the most important cases to hear. Around 80 cases are presented to the Supreme Court each term, and each term wraps up in early summer. Typically, the most controversial and widely publicized cases are saved for last.

So be sure to stay tuned during the summer as the Supreme Court comes down with more landmark decisions that may impact your life.