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What are some differences between the US Supreme Court and The European Court of Human Rights?

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The European Court of Human Rights is a supranational court which sits in Strasbourg and exercises jurisdiction over the forty-seven member states of the Council of Europe. It is quite unlike any national supreme court, in that it hears cases brought only against member states on questions of human rights. These cases may be brought by individuals, groups, or other member states. The ECHR has forty-seven judges, one for each member state. Each state puts forward three candidates, and the judge is elected by majority vote in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for a non-renewable term of nine years.

The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the US federal judiciary. It is almost entirely an appellate court, hearing appeals on points of federal law from lower courts throughout the country, along with a small number of first-instance cases involving the state and state officials. The court consists of nine justices, all of whom have lifetime tenure. Justices are nominated by the president and then face hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which can then vote to send the nomination to the Senate for confirmation. Theoretically, the president can nominate anyone to serve on the court, though in practice, the nominee is always already a judge.

The ECHR, as is generally the case with institutions that are part of the Council of Europe, has a relatively low profile. Its judgments are usually only known to human rights lawyers and others who have a professional interest in the court. Supreme Court rulings on such matters as abortion and marriage equality, in sharp contrast, receive extensive attention in the United States.

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