How many courts and judges are in the Supreme Court? Also, what types of cases do they receive?  

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While the jurisdiction of the United States Supreme Court is largely appellate, it does have what is called original jurisdiction in a few instances. This means that the Supreme Court acts as a trial court, taking evidence as any trial court does.  This jurisdiction is set forth in the second paragraph of Article III, Section 2:

In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction.

This does not come up very often, but the Constitution makes clear that if an issue arises over certain kinds of public officials who are involved in international diplomacy, the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction.  Similarly, disputes between states fall under the original jurisdiction of this court.  I have included two links to two different cases in which the court had original jurisdiction over the states as parties. These are probably the most recent examples.

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There is only one court “in the Supreme Court.”  The Supreme Court is just one court.  There are nine justices who make up the Supreme Court.  The Constitution does not say how many justices there should be and Congress could change the number of justices by passing a new law.  However, nine is the number of justices that have been on the Court since 1869 and it would be very hard to get the political support needed to change the number of justices at this point.

The Supreme Court “receives” cases that have been appealed from lower federal courts or from state supreme courts.  However, the Supreme Court does not have to hear all of these cases.  The Court is asked to take about 10,000 cases per year but it actually only agrees to hear a small fraction of these.  It typically only selects about 80 cases, with a case being selected if four of the nine justices vote to accept it.  The Court generally takes only the cases that have to do with very important issues of law.


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