final court of appeal and final expositor of the U.S. Constitution. Within the framework of litigation, the Supreme Court marks the boundaries of authority between state and nation, state and state, and government and citizen. The court was instituted by the Constitution of 1787 as the head of a federal court system with the authority to act in cases arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States; in controversies to which the United States is a party; in controversies between states or between citizens of different states; in cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; and in cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls. The size of the court is set by Congress; it varied during the 19th century from 6 to 10 members before stabilizing in 1869 at 9. Appointments to the Supreme Court and to the lower federal courts are made by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate. Tenure is during good behaviour, subject to expulsion by conviction on impeachment. Only one justice has been impeached, Samuel Chase, who was acquitted in 1805. In 1969 one, Abe Fortas, was forced to resign, however, because of his outside financial dealings. In maintaining the constitutional order, the Supreme Court from an early date has exercised the power of declaring acts of Congress or of the state legislatures unconstitutional. Such power of judicial review, however, is not expressly conferred by the Constitution (see judicial review). Executive, administrative, and judicial actions are also subject to review by the Supreme Court. Relatively few cases are brought in the original jurisdiction of the court. The great bulk of the court's business comes to it in its appellate jurisdiction. Depending on the nature of the decision in the state or lower federal court, the route to the Supreme Court is by appeal or certiorari. The difference between the two is that an appeal obliges the court to review the case, whereas a review under certiorari is discretionary. The development of this bifurcated jurisdiction reflects a response by Congress to a long struggle by the court to cope with the volume of cases annually docketed. In 1891 a measure of relief was afforded by the Circuit Court of Appeals Act, which set up intermediate courts with final authority over appeals from federal district courts, save in cases of exceptional public importance. The Judge's Act (Feb. 13, 1925), sponsored by the court itself, carried the reforms further and greatly limited the obligatory jurisdiction, giving the court a large measure of control over its business by placing most classes of cases under certiorari. Any assessment of the unifying forces in U.S. society must ascribe an important role to the Supreme Court. The chief technical instrument employed by the court has been the commerce clause of the Constitution, applied to nullify state laws of taxation or regulation that discriminate against or unduly burden interstate commerce; the clause has also been used to uphold the power of Congress to regulate vast sectors of the economy. While the commerce clause has been the chief doctrinal source of power over the economy, the due process and equal protection clauses have been the principal sources of protection of persons and corporations against arbitrary or repressive acts of government. These clauses were used at first to protect property rights, but by the 20th century they began to be applied to the area of civil liberties, particularly in the extension of Bill of Rights guarantees to state actions. By the mid-20th century the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which had been designed for the benefit of emancipated blacks, began to serve its historic purpose as a barrier to racially discriminatory laws. The opinions of the court have often been the epitome of reasoned elaboration. In conjunction with its long tradition of dissent, it serves to clarify, refine, and test the philosophic ideals written into the Constitution and translate them into working principles for a federal union under law. Beyond its specific contributions, this symbolic and pragmatic function may be regarded as the most significant role of the court in the life of the nation.

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