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As the highest court in the land, the U.S. Supreme Court to hear about 100 to 150 court cases a year. With its power, it can even deem an executive or legislative act as unconstitutional. It aims to ensure that lower courts or other governmental decisions do not impede the constitutional rights of Americans.

Early Beginnings of the Supreme Court

The first bill legislated in the United States Senate was named the Judiciary Act of 1789. The Supreme Court was to consist of six justices, a Supreme Justice and five associate justices. Justices for the Supreme Court were to be appointed by the President, agreed upon by the Senate, and given life terms.

The most justices appointed by a President was by President Washington. He appointed the first six justices, and later in his second term, he appointed four others. President Franklin Roosevelt came close to his record by appointing a total of eight justices. The decision to have nine justices was made in 1869.

Early Traditions of the Supreme Court Still Held

Some of the traditions started early on in the Supreme Court’s history are still being practiced today. The justices are seated in seniority order starting from the middle by the Chief Justice. Black robes started to be worn by the justices at least as early as 1800. Quill style pens are still being used inside the courtroom. And the “Judicial Handshake” is still being practiced.

A tradition that started in the late 1800s, the ” Judicial Handshake” is where each justice shakes hands with each of the other eight. This handshake happens each day before the justices take their seat at the Bench, and at the beginning of the private meetings where they discuss case decisions. The handshake was instituted to remind each justice that differences of opinion on the Court did not prohibit the overall harmony of the Court’s purpose.

History of the Supreme Court’s Location

The Senate did not provide a building for the Supreme Court at its inception. The first Supreme Court session took place at the Merchants Exchange Building in New York City, though there were no cases to hear. When the National Capital moved to Philadelphia in 1790, the Court established itself at Independence Hall, and later on in the City Hall.

In 1800, the federal government made Washington, D.C. it’s permanent home. There, the Court convened in various rooms for many years within the Capital Building. Finally, in 1929, Chief Justice and former U.S. President William Taft, convinced Congress to authorize the construction of a structure for the Court. The Supreme Court was finally able to take ownership of its own building in 1935.

The road to where the U.S. Supreme Court is today is filled with interesting events and decisions. The justices who sit on the court today carry on a rich and important tradition in American life.