The Supreme Court by the Numbers

15 facts about the highest court in the land 

The Supreme Court is part of the judicial branch, one of the three branches of the U.S. government. The Supreme Court was established by the U.S. Constitution, which gave it jurisdiction over all federal laws. Read these 15 facts about the nation’s top court. 

1789

The year the Judiciary Act was passed, creating the Supreme Court as a tribunal with six justices who serve until death or retirement. 

1790 

The year of the U.S. Supreme Court’s first session, in New York City.

6

The number of justices on the first Supreme Court, in 1790.

1868

The year Congress set the number of justices at nine.

114 

The number of justices who have served on the Supreme Court since 1790.

17 

The number of chief justices of the United States since 1790.

17 

The average number of years served by a Supreme Court justice — although justices can serve for life.

36

The number of years served by the longest-tenured Supreme Court justice: William O. Douglas, who served from 1939 to 1975.

7,000 to 8,000

The average number of cases petitioned to the Supreme Court each year, from 2012 to 2019. These cases have already been decided by a lower court, and one of the parties is asking for the ruling to be reviewed and overturned.  

4

The number of justices who must vote in favor for a petitioned case to be granted review.

70-80

The number of petitions that are accepted and heard by the court each year — about 1% of the filed petitions (since 2012).

30 

The number of minutes usually given to each side to argue its case in front of the justices.

13 

The number of federal courts of appeals. They are organized in 12 regional circuits plus a federal circuit under the Supreme Court.

94

The number of federal district courts with regional jurisdictions that are under the Supreme Court. 

1932 

The year the cornerstone was laid on today’s Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill. Before the building was constructed, justices met in a number of places, including private homes, taverns, and the basement below the Senate chamber.


Learn more about:
The court’s origin and work (U.S. Supreme Court)
History of the court (The Supreme Court Historical Society)
Supreme Court procedure (Federal Judiciary)
Justices of the Supreme Court (U.S. Supreme Court)
Supreme Court nominations (U.S. Senate)
Landmark cases (Federal Judiciary)
Case and decision statistics (Harvard Law Review)

Find more resources here.

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