Supreme Court Lesson for Kids Facts & Cases

Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
Sometime in your life, maybe on TV, you've probably heard of a Supreme Court decision. But what does this area of the government do? In this lesson, you will read about the Supreme Court, who chooses the judges, some famous cases and how cases are decided.

What is the Supreme Court?

You move into a new home. Both you and your older brother want the biggest bedroom! You argue with your big brother but no matter what you say, he will not listen. Finally, after many arguments, you decide to go to your parents and have them decide who is right or wrong. Using their past experiences, they decide that the oldest gets the bigger room. Your parents in this scenario are like the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court

Inside Washington, D.C., the Supreme Court decides arguments in the American family. It's the top of the judicial branch of the United States' government. Along with the executive (the President) and the legislative (the Congress), the judicial branch is the third branch of the American tree of government. All three branches work together in a system called checks and balances. This is a system that was created by the founders of the United States to make sure no one branch could take over the other two.

Nine Judges

The Supreme court has nine judges led by the Chief Justice. Why are there nine? Well, the Judiciary Act of 1869 set the number at nine. The President of the United States picks the judges, and the Congress questions them to ensure they are right for the position. This is called confirmation.

Once the judges are confirmed, they are a Supreme Court judge for life. They make difficult decisions based on the law and the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution is a set of rules we have all agreed to live by as American citizens.

Do They Decide What is Right or Wrong?

Supreme Court judges have usually been judges for a long time, and have several years of experience with the law. However, they do not decide what is right and wrong. They use previous judgements throughout history and our current laws to decide cases. This is called precedent. They cannot make or change the law, but they can decide if it is a bad law. If it is, they can work to get rid of it.

The Supreme Court, for a long time, was only men. However, in 1981, president Ronald Reagan picked the first woman Supreme Court judge, Sandra Day O'Conner. Currently, there are several women Supreme Court judges, and the nine judges are of varied ethnicity.

Everyone is equal under the law
Scales of Justice

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