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History of the Supreme Court’s Organization, Structure, Membership and Decision

by | Jun 24, 2022 | Other | 0 comments

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History of the Supreme Court’s Organization, Structure, Membership and Decision Making Power
It was back on this day in 1789 that Congress passed the act that officially created the federal judiciary system that included the Supreme Court and other federal courts. The Supreme Court itself was established as part of the Constitution. According to Article III, “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” The details of the Court’s composition and that of the lower courts were left to Congress, which debated the Judiciary Act for several months and passed the final measure on September 24, 1789. The Act set the intial number of Supreme Court (Links to an external site.) justices (Links to an external site.) at six: one Chief Justice (Links to an external site.) and five Associate Justices (Links to an external site.).
The early days of the Court were certainly low-key. The justices, when they met, were in the Old City Hall in Philadelphia and then the Capitol building’s basement in Washington.
The Supreme Court then became more of an institution we’d recognize today under Chief Justice John Marshall’s tenure as the Supreme Court’s leader for more than three decades.
In the court’s history, 106 of the 112 Justices have been white men. Only six are minorities with four women and two African-Americans. One of the women — Justice Sonia Sotomayor — is also Latina.
Democratic Presidents have nominated three women (Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg) and one African-American (Thurgood Marshall).
A Republican President (Reagan) nominated the first woman to ever sit on the bench — Sandra Day O’Connor — and President George H.W. Bush nominated African-American Clarence Thomas. Nine has not always been the magic number (Links to an external site.) for Justices. While the Court has settled there since 1869, it reached an all-time high of 10 in 1863 — not exactly conducive to majority opinions — while the inaugural Court only hosted four. For the first 146 years of its existence (Links to an external site.), the Supreme Court did not have its own building. Justices reportedly met in different rooms of the Capitol building and also frequented private homes and bars to discuss their cases.
On the topic of cases, the court is not particularly productive when it comes to its case-to-opinion ratio. While it does manage to issue rulings on between 80 and 90 per year, it receives anywhere from 7,000-8,000 new cases (Links to an external site.) each term.
The highest court in the land ultimately decided vegetable. The case was Nix vs. Hedden (Links to an external site.), decided in 1893.
John Nix was a big-time produce seller in NYC. The Tariff Act of March 3, 1883 determined taxes had to be paid on imported veggies, but not fruits.
Tomatoes being seed-bearing, many considered them to be fruits but ultimately Justice Horace Gray would argue, in a unanimous decision, that tomatoes weren’t fruits because they were typically eaten with the main course of a meal instead of as a dessert.
Some of you may think — horrifying as it may sound — the government is the only entity able to utilize eminent domain to its advantage. Not true.
The Supreme Court decided in the 2005 case of Kelo vs. City of New London (Links to an external site.) that it was also usable when it came to the transference of property from one private owner to another.
Translation: you can be forced to sell your land to another at a predetermined price beyond your control even if you don’t want to, provided the sale is for the public good — except that’s not true if you follow the specific case all the way through to its conclusion.
The land owners in question were forced to sell to make way for the promise of economic development from the pharmaceutical company Pfizer. Pfizer never actually delivered on that promise after the sale.
Beloved President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed one of the least popular Executive Orders (Links to an external site.) of all time (historically) interning the Japanese into camps during World War II, regardless of citizenship (Links to an external site.).
In Korematsu vs. U.S., the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the order. “Pressing public necessity may sometimes justify the existence of such restrictions; racial antagonism never can,” wrote Justice Hugo Black.
Required Materials and Resources:
Copy and paste the two links below, in order to watch the two videos needed to complete this assignment.
Prompt Topics
Choose 1 of the following to write about. Papers should be argumentative, in favor or opposition of one position presented in the question. Papers must include at least 1 example from the film and 1 example from Article III of the U.S. Constitution, to offer support for their position.
Describe how power of the Supreme Court has changed, by comparing the power of the first court (Marshall’s court) to the present day court (CSPAN video Roberts Court) to analyze whether the power of this particular court has either remained consistent or overstepped the function and purpose intended by the framers.

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