- There are three branches
of government in the United States:
The judicial branch is made up
of the Supreme Court and other federal
courts whose function is to rule
on all matters related
to the law and the Constitution.
The Supreme Court has enormous power that
has continued to grow since its inception
in 1789. [MUSIC PLAYING]
The first version of the court
had only six justices.
In 1869, that number grew to nine
and has remained that way ever since.
Unlike the other branches
of government, justices
The president nominates Supreme
Court members, as well as
federal courts of appeals and district
The Senate then has the responsibility
to vote and confirm or reject
Justices don't have term limits.
They're able to serve until they die,
retire, or are removed
by Congress through impeachment
The Constitution itself doesn't give
any specific requirements
for who can and cannot be a justice.
In fact, federal law doesn't even
require a federal judge
to be an attorney.
But traditionally, most of them
have worked as lawyers.
And when it comes to the power
the Supreme Court wields,
the Constitution is again, pretty vague.
Section 1 identifies the Supreme Court
as a third branch of government
and it empowers the court
to decide cases.
That's pretty much it.
Section 2 touches on jurisdiction.
And section 3 spells out
regulations around treason cases.
There is no mention of interpreting
the constitutionality of the laws,
the very thing the Supreme Court
is famous for today.
So how did the Supreme Court
get that power?
The answer is an 1803 Supreme
Court case, known as Marbury
The case is a little complicated,
but basically Chief Justice John
Marshall ruled that the law Marbury was
using to make his case was
Marshall's ruling established that it
was the United States Supreme Court's
responsibility to interpret
the constitutionality of laws.
And so the court's mandate
of judicial review was born.
And as the highest court
in the country, decisions
made by the Supreme Court are final.
That is, unless a future Supreme
Court finds that decision
One well-known example of this
was the Supreme Court's ruling
in the case of Brown versus Board
of Education in 1954, which
ruled racial segregation
in public schools unconstitutional.
This overruled the Supreme Court's
1896 decision in Plessy
versus Ferguson, which had legally
protected segregation as
separate but equal.
When the Supreme Court makes
a ruling, all other courts must follow
Unlike the president or Congress,
courts only act if someone
brings forward a valid case.
And unlike the legislative and
executive branches, the judicial branch
operates outside of elections
and voter input.
But it nonetheless has
a profound effect on our daily lives,
by evaluating the constitutionality
of laws to keep our government in check.