In a cavernous building across from the US Capitol, the Supreme Court sits as the final arbiter on fundamental American legal matters, which can include minority and LGBTQ rights, racism, the death penalty and electoral controversies.
Created under Article III of the Constitution, the court consists of a chief justice and eight associate justices — all of whom are appointed for life.
The death on Friday of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, anchor of the court’s liberal faction, could give President Donald Trump a chance to lock in a conservative majority for decades to come.
Though Democratic challenger for the White House Joe Biden has warned the president has no right to name a successor so close to the November 3 election, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has vowed to hold a vote on a Trump nominee to take Ginsburg’s place.
Trump has already named two firmly conservative justices to the Supreme Court during his term: Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Justices sometimes finish their careers by resigning their post, while others serve on the court until they die.
They can retire from age 70, but rarely do so. Ginsburg, at 87, was the oldest sitting justice.
The court’s remaining liberal judges include Sonia Sotomayor, 66, and Elena Kagan, 60 — both appointed by president Barack Obama — and Stephen Breyer, 82.
Aside from Gorsuch, 53, and Kavanaugh, 55, conservatives on the bench include Chief Justice John Roberts, 65, Samuel Alito, 70, and Clarence Thomas, 72, the court’s only black member, known for virtually never speaking during oral arguments.
Like all civil servants and US presidents, Supreme Court justices can be impeached and removed from office if found guilty of treason, corruption or other high crimes, but this has yet to happen.
Since the court was established, a new appointee has been named by the president roughly every two years, and justices have served for an average of about 15 years.
Some serve much longer, however. Anthony Kennedy, who retired in 2018, was appointed in 1987 by president Ronald Reagan and confirmed the following year.
Ginsburg was appointed in 1993 by president Bill Clinton.
Any Supreme Court nominee must first survive a confirmation hearing by the US Senate Judiciary Committee, and then be approved by the full US Senate.
For a case to reach the Supreme Court, a petitioner has to challenge the constitutionality of a federal appeals court ruling, or in certain cases a state court ruling.
However, the justices get to decide which cases they will hear.
The court opens its annual session on the first Monday in October and sits until the end of June.
When the court is in session, the justices enter the courtroom at 10:00 am for public sessions. At the sound of the gavel, those present arise and remain standing until the black-robed justices are seated.
The court marshal announces the start of the session with the traditional phrase: “The honorable, the chief justice and the associate justices of the Supreme Court of the United States. Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the court is now sitting. God save the United States and this honorable court!”
After receiving written arguments by both sides, as well as amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) testimonies from non-litigants with an interest in the outcome of the case, lawyers representing each side get just 30 minutes to argue their case, during which time the justices can ask questions.
The Supreme Court sometimes sends cases back to a lower court for re-examination and the justices can also hear urgent requests, such as an appeal to halt or postpone an impending execution.
Court rulings are approved by a majority and their opinions written up by one of the justices. The other justices can add their own comments or, if they oppose the ruling, write a dissenting opinion, something for which Ginsburg became well known.
Confused Trump can’t stop talking about the new military ‘hydrosonic’ toothbrush missile
President Donald Trump spent some of his time at his Ohio rally Saturday saying that under his leadership the military has developed a secret hydrosonic missile.
There's just one problem: Hydrosonic is a toothbrush.
The Hydrosonic Pro is a Curaprox product that boasts "ultra-fine, gentle CUREN® filaments."Hypersonic missiles are weapons that can travel at 17 times the speed of sound and Navy warships will be outfitted with them. Trump also seems confused about the facts, saying that the missile travels at five times the speed of normal missiles.
Trump teases he may not have a peaceful transfer of power if he loses
President Donald Trump was aghast when he was asked in the presidential debates if he would agree to a peaceful transfer of power.
The moment in the debate came when he dodged the question for weeks, refusing to agree to the long-standing tradition of presidents handing over the reins to the next leader.
"Well, we'll have to see what happens," Trump told reporters during a White House news conference. "You know that."
After weeks of bad press about it, Trump said he would agree to it.
"They spied heavily on my campaign and they tried to take down a duly elected sitting president, and then they talk about 'will you accept a peaceful transfer?' And the answer is, yes, I will, but I want it to be an honest election and so does everybody else," Trump said, adding, "When I see thousands of ballots dumped in a garbage can and they happen to have my name on it, I'm not happy about it."
‘Jarring’: PA Trump fans attack polls making so much noise poll workers couldn’t read instructions to voters
One Pennsylvania polling place fell under a full out attack on those standing in line to vote and trying to cast a ballot on Saturday.
In a Twitter thread, Behavioral Economist Alex Imas explained that while he was casting his ballot on the outskirts of Philadelphia County, PA Saturday, a parade of semis and other cars surrounded the polling place, laying on their horns.
"I arrived just as polling place opened. Short line. Thought I'd be in and out in 20 minutes tops. Even w/ this short line, it took 2+ hours," he explained.
"Then the next Semi followed, then the 3rd," he continued. "A motorcade of semis, jeeps, and a few sedans drove down the road. All honking. All flying Trump 2020 flags. With people yelling out the window. This motorcade snaked around the polling place the entire time I was there (2 hrs)."