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Government: United States Government: Judicial Branch

The Supreme Court

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Click here for a virtual tour of the Supreme Court Building by

Overview of the Federal Judiciary

The judicial branch of the United States government was established by Article III of the United States Constitution, and is comprised of: U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Courts of Appeals, U.S. District Courts, Bankruptcy Courts.

    The federal judiciary also includes legislative courts, created by Congress, which do not have full judicial power. They include: U.S. Court of Military Appeals, U.S. Tax Court, U.S. Court of Veterans' Appeals.

      For a more detailed overview of the federal judiciary, see:


      For more detailed information regarding the Supreme Court and related topics, see:

      Supreme Court Documents

      Cases & Opinions


      Oral Arguments

      For more in-depth information regarding federal cases,
      including the lower courts, see the Legal Research guide.

      Structure of the Judicial Branch

      "The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the land and the only part of the federal judiciary specifically required by the Constitution. ... since 1869 there have been nine Justices, including one Chief Justice. All Justices are nominated by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and hold their offices under life tenure. Since Justices do not have to run or campaign for re-election, they are thought to be insulated from political pressure when deciding cases. Justices may remain in office until they resign, pass away, or are impeached and convicted by Congress."

      "Federal courts enjoy the sole power to interpret the law, determine the constitutionality of the law, and apply it to individual cases. The courts, like Congress, can compel the production of evidence and testimony through the use of a subpoena. The inferior courts are constrained by the decisions of the Supreme Court — once the Supreme Court interprets a law, inferior courts must apply the Supreme Court’s interpretation to the facts of a particular case."

      Source: Our Government: Judicial Branch

      Related Guides

      For more in-depth information regarding federal cases,
      including the lower courts, see the Legal Research guide.

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