A Brief History of the U.S. Supreme Court

In the Beginning...

The Supreme Court of the United States wasn't always the well-respected force of judicial might that it is today. In fact, Anthony Hamilton once remarked that it was the "least dangerous" branch of government. It had no official chambers up until 1810 (In 1810 they were moved to a room more suitable for their purposes but shared the space with the circuit court and the Orphan’s Court as well) and at one time was resigned to meeting in the basement of the Capitol building and a nearby tavern. Justices were assigned to circuits and traveled the country by horse-drawn carriage for months at a time to decide cases.

Changes in the Court...

The U.S. Supreme Court

The image of the court changed as a result of many factors, but two are most commonly cited. The first was the case of Marbury vs. Madison in 1803,gave the Supreme Court the power of Judicial Review, or the power to decide the constitutionality of laws. This, combined with the fact that Supreme Court decisions are final, gave the Court immense decision making power. The second, was the appointment of John Marshall to chief justice in 1860. Chief Justice Marshall established regularized procedures that ultimately worked to better the image of the Court. John Marshall also gave power to the position of chief Justice as well by leading discussions, directing the order of business during meetings and encouraging cordiality among the justices. Marshall also encouraged justices to reach unanimous decisions about issues so outsiders wouldn't see them as a divided body.

Today...

Over the years, the Supreme Court continued to build upon its legacy of prestige with notable additions to its ranks like Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court justice and arguing attorney for Brown v. Board of Education and Justice Sandra Day O'Conner, the first woman appointed to the Court. Today, the impact of U.S. Supreme Court decisions are far reaching and far encompassing and affect many of the things we do on daily basis.