Judicial Branch

Do you think YOU can judge the laws in The Supreme Court???

The smaller yet most powerful branch! Join the Supreme Court!

Do you want to work on interpreting laws? Then the judicial branch is for you! This less-celebrated but very important branch handles justice, and makes sure every man and woman has judged fairly and their rights have not been violated. You can even serve as a Supreme Court Justice for life!!
Article III For Dummies: The Judiciary Explained

Who is in it? The people you may want to know

The Supreme Court
  • the highest court in U.S, only federal court required by Constitution- deals with all cases that may violate rights in Constitution
  • Currently made up of 9 justices- one Chief Justice, eight Associate Justices
  • Chief Justice- John G. Roberts JR.
  • Associate Justices- Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito JR., Elene Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor
  • All judges above 55 yrs. and were appointed by G.W Bush, George Bush, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama
  • 5 Republicans and 4 Democrats

How to become a member- how you can get in on interpreting laws

  • No specified age requirements-must have federal judging experience
  • For Supreme Court- appointed by President (usually picks a judge that has similar views as himself) and approved by Senate
  • No term limit, serve for life until resignation, retirement, death, or impeachment from House of Reps. and conviction from Senate

Key vocab you need to know

Jurisdiction- right of a court to hear a certain case


  • There are specific requirements (jurisdiction) needed for a case to be considered federal
Appeal-to ask for your case to be heard again-at a higher level of court



  • You can appeal to every level of federal court to have a chance of getting your case heard at the Supreme Court
  • You can appeal if you think the sentence/punishment violates rights from constitution
Original Jurisdiction- right of a court to hear a case when it first arises



  • Supreme Court only determines a few cases, such as ones involving foreign diplomats
  • All other cases go to federal/state courts, can still be appealed and sent to Supreme Court
Appellate Jurisdiction- power of a court to hear cases that were appealed at a lower court



  • All federal courts have this jurisdiction
  • If the appeal is approved, the appeal goes up to the next level of courts
  • It can then reach Supreme Court, who accepts about 100 appeals out of about 8,000 cases

A Brief Overview of the Court System- Where you will come in

Example: a person is arrested for killing many people and is tried in a state that has the death penalty. He is convicted of the death penalty.

  1. He and his team of lawyers appeal the death penalty sentence, saying that it violates a person's constitutional rights since it is cruel and unusual punishment
  2. Since the appeal now deals with a constitutional crime, it goes to a federal court
  3. The federal court doesn't decide guilt or innocence, it determines if the appeal is proper and correct.
  4. If the federal court approves the appeal, the person and his lawyers can appeal to the next higher level of federal court
  5. This process repeats itself over and over. If all the levels of court approve this man's appeal, the appeal is sent to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court only takes about 100 appeals out of the 8,000 they receive each year, so chances are that this person will not be heard by the Supreme Court and the ruling will stay the same.
  6. By some miracle, the person's case is accepted by the Supreme Court. The person's appeal will be heard by all 9 justices who then take a vote. They don't vote on guilt or innocence, just if the punishment is unconstitutional or not.
  7. If the Court rules against the person, he will still have the death penalty. But here's the catch: if the Court rules for the person, they find the death penalty unconstitutional and for that person to be given a different punishment (like life in prison). But if they rules the death penalty unconstitutional, then ALL cases in the U.S that carried the death penalty are now changed, and all those cases must change the punishment. The Supreme Court's decision can have such a great effect over the entire nation. This is why people consider the judicial branch to be the most powerful branch.