Law and Politics

Start Free Trial

How does the Supreme Court take and hear a case? 

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The vast majority of cases taken up by the Supreme Court arrived to it through appeals. The technical term for this is appellate jurisdiction . Only a small minority of possible cases are heard by the Supreme Court, so it must choose its limited cases carefully. Only the most weighty...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The vast majority of cases taken up by the Supreme Court arrived to it through appeals. The technical term for this is appellate jurisdiction. Only a small minority of possible cases are heard by the Supreme Court, so it must choose its limited cases carefully. Only the most weighty cases are heard after at least four justices vote for it. The Court agrees to hear a case by issuing a writ of certiorari.

Lawyers present their briefs, or arguments, to the Court. Then the judges meet privately to discuss the case. Finally, they issue their decisions, and a majority is needed. In other words, at least five of the justices issue a majority opinion. The decision then becomes the law of the land.

The Supreme Court's decisions are extremely important. The Court has the power of judicial review, and its decisions have shaped the nation's policies in areas like education and segregation. There is speculation that it may hear a case on abortion in the near future.

As the highest court in the nation, the Supreme Court is the pinnacle of America's legislative branch. The Constitution of the United States specifically created the Supreme Court, and other federal courts were established by Congress with the Judiciary Act of 1789. Although the Court has had nine justices for the last century and a half, the exact number was not specified in the Constitution. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, unhappy with the Court's actions during the New Deal, considered adding justices, but his plan met fierce opposition.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team