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The United States Supreme Court

The supreme court of the United States of America is established under article three of the United States constitution. Section 1 of article three categorically states that the Supreme Court has been given full mandate to conduct and oversee all judicial matters in the United States. In fact, the Supreme Court surpasses the Congress in terms of power and mandate, here in considered as an inferior court (The United States Constitution, 2009).The section also states that the Judges of both the supreme and inferior Courts will be the occupiers of their said offices as long as they demonstrate good behavior. The judges will also receive adequate payment for the job that they do and their payment is not to be reduced during their term in office (The United States Constitution, 2009)

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This section above establishes the Supreme Court and states that judges shall hold their offices as long as when they have good conduct. It also states that they shall be paid for their services and that the payment given to these judges can not be reduced during the time the judge is in office. Powers to congress and judges to establish the court are also defined therein. Article III, section 1, clause 2 gives the Supreme Court original jurisdiction over “all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party”. This simply means that in any of the cases mentioned above will be heard for the first time in the Supreme Court not in lower courts. This clause also establishes the Supreme Court as a court of appeal for cases mentioned in Article III, section 1, clause 2.

Congress and Justices of the Court are empowered by the constitution to develop the authorities and operations of the entire Judicial Branch of government. The specific duties, powers or organization of the U.S Supreme Court are not spelled in the article above Because of this in the initial stages, the Supreme Court was ‘weak’ and became much stronger only after the entry of john Marshall, the fourth chief justice (Robert, 2008).

Pre-marshall Court

At the time of its inception, the Supreme Court was made up of six members. The very first Senate bill, the Judiciary Act of 1789 called for the Supreme Court to consist of a Chief Justice and only five Associate Justices. John Jay was the first chief justice and he served alongside associate justices John Rutledge, William Cushing, James Wilson, John Blair and James Iredell.

Through the 1789 the President of the United States was given the power to nominate justices of the United States Supreme Court. These nominations were also made subject to the approval of the senate. The senate was to show approval by way of a a majority vote. Once nominated and approved. The Justices are allowed to continue in service until they either retire, die or they are impeached. The position of U.S. Attorney General was also created by the 1789 Act.

The first Supreme Court meeting of the court was held Feb. 2, 1790.the first ever case was heard in 1792 in New York City, which was the capital of the U.S.

The pre – Marshall Court was weak because of several reasons:

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The Court had not yet realized or embraced its full constitutional role. An intimate relation to the Constitution was not one of the things the pre-marshal court possessed. The court could not establish this intimate relation as few opportunities for this came up. this was partly because the courts decided a significantly small number of constitutional cases. The awareness of the power of the Supreme Court to consider whether or not laws passed by congress were constitutional was nonexistent. The number of cases handle was low and this limited the courts ability to assert itself as for the Court to assert itself as a branch of government equal to the legislative and executive branches. Even so the few cases decided by the court were mostly concerned with International affairs and national security (Harvard Law, 2008).

Marshall Courts

After 1800, American law became more domesticated and moved farther away from the internationalism.changes occurred in the supreme court under John Marshall.

John Marshall was born on September 24, 1755 in Virginia. He became the chief justice in the year 1801 while during the period of John Adams’ presidency. the period of Marshall’s service as the united states Chief Justice lasted until 1805, a total of 34 years. The powers and the role of both the Supreme Court and the judiciary system were clearly defined as a result of the firm steps taken by Marshall. Decisions made by the Marshall Court laid the foundations of constitutional law in America. The Supreme Court became established as the final authority on the meaning of the Constitution. Marshall cemented the power of judicial review that is the court’s power to disregard or invalidate laws that are deemed to be inconsistent with the American constitution. Marshall held that the Supreme Court could overturn a law passed by Congress if it violated the Constitution in the case Marbury v. Madison (1803). In this single landmark case, the Supreme Court established its power to interpret the U.S. Constitution and to determine the constitutionality of laws passed by congress and the state legislatures (Longley, 2008).

During his period in office, it was also established that the Supreme Court could consider appeals from state courts. These reforms have made the judicial system arguably the most powerful arm of government and very prestigious worldwide.

In its entire history, the Supreme Court has had only sixteen Chief Justices, and over one hundred Associate Justices.

The Current Supreme Court

Since 1869, the Supreme Court has consisted of nine members. the number of supreme court justices changed six times before 1869. From that year onwards the number has been a constant nine. The Chief Justice of the United States and Associate Justices are the constituent members of the United States Supreme Court. The number of Associate Justices as is legal has been currently fixed at eight by congress. The Supreme Court also has officers who assist it in the dispensation of its duties.

The justices currently have lifetime appointments. The constitutional base of the court remains the same.

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Possible changes in the next eight years

It is debatable whether or not the Supreme Court might change significantly over the next eight years. It is possible that in terms of organizational structure, the Supreme Court is likely to remain the same in the next eight years. Changes in decision making are also less likely to occur as such decisions are normally made in accordance with the constitution of the United States. The constitution will be upheld and no contrary decisions will be made, at least that’s the way it ought to be. Obama presidency could mean an approximate continuation of the current court’s make-up Maoro (2009).

However as change is inevitable, and with the new Obama administration it is highly probable that there will be change in the Supreme Court. One of the possible changes will come with the appointments the president is to make. Some justices are expected to retire and their replacements may come with change (Jouvenal, 2008).

Another cause of change in the make up of the Supreme Court could be the letter sent to congress and the Obama administration proposing changes to the operation of the Supreme CourtThe letter was drafted by a group of 34 prominent legal experts. Some of the changes that may occur if the proposals are considered are the abandoning the current lifetime appointments for Supreme Court justices. The terms would then be limited, judges will be considered senior after serving for eighteen years. Some justices will be encouraged to retire. The president may be allowed to nominate a new justice with each two-year term of Congress. This will ensure that there is a regular rotation of court members. It is also proposed that the chief justice’s term be limited to seven years. It is also proposed that justices with ailing health be advised to retire (Medical News Today, 2009).

Although these are just proposals, with Obama’s vast knowledge in constitutional law, at least subtle but significant changes will occur in the Supreme Court.

Bibliography

Harvard Law (2008). Will the Supreme Court be transformed in the next four years? An HLS panel looks ahead. Web.

Jouvenal Justin (2008).Ten picks for Obama’s Supreme Court. Web.

Medical News Today (2009). Legal Experts Propose Changes To Supreme Court Justices’ Powers, Terms. Web.

Robert Longley (2008). Supreme Court – A Brief History. Web.

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Supreme Courtus.gov (undated). A Brief Overview. Web.

The United States Constitution (2009). The US constitution. Web.

Tony Mauro (2008). For the Supreme Court, a Term of Change Ahead. Web.

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