What Does the Supreme Court Do?

The U.S. Supreme Court decides criminal and civil appeals cases that involve federal law, according to the U.S. Justice Department’s Offices of the United States Attorneys. Cases come from other federal appeals courts and from state courts, as long as the question involves federal statutes or the U.S. Constitution.

The Supreme Court selects very few of the petitions that it receives, according to UShistory.org. Out of nine justices, four of the justices must agree to hear the case before it can be placed on the docket. The court selects cases with far-reaching effects or cases with conflicting rulings in lower appeals courts. Justices hear oral arguments from October to June of each year. Parties submit briefs to the court detailing their cases. The justices vote to decide a majority in the case, then the justices issue a majority opinion along with minority dissenting opinions. The opinions detail the legal reasoning for the decision in the case. U.S. Supreme Court decisions have the effect of law without implementation abilities.

The U.S. Supreme Court also has the power of judicial review, according to United States Courts. Under judicial review, the justices decide if a law or executive order is constitutional. The court acts as a check on executive and legislative power.