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Blue streak

United States Supreme Court, Washington, D.C.

by Katie Calvert

The United States Supreme Court is the judicial branch of government—the third branch along with the president’s executive and Congress’s legislative branches.

As the ultimate arbiters in determining the constitutionality of laws and on ruling in legal disputes in the United States the decisions of the nine justices appointed to the Supreme Court have shaped America.

United States Supreme Court buildingFor its first 145 years of existence, the Supreme Court didn't have a permanent home.
The Merchants Exchange Building in New York City, Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, and various rooms in the Capitol served as its chambers until 1935 when the Supreme Court building opened.
US Capitol from the Supreme Court buildingArchitect Cass Gilbert designed the Supreme Court to match nearby buildings’ classical style and to be America’s “temple of justice.” The building does resemble a Roman temple with its picturesque white marble Corinthian columns and wide marble staircase.
Supreme Court inscriptionThe inscription, “Equal Justice Under Law,” is chiseled above the main entrance. Legal themes abound in friezes, bas-reliefs, and statues that adorn the inside and outside of the building.
Contemplation of Justice marble statueAllegorical figures of the Contemplation of Justice (female) and the Guardian of Law (male), rendered in marble statues by James Earle Fraser, sit on either side of the main steps looking toward the Capitol building.
Guardian of Law sculptureThe Supreme Court building is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. During the Court’s October through April session, visitors can attend oral arguments on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. In these sessions, an attorney for each side of a case presents his or her arguments and then undergoes questioning—often in rapid-fire sequence—by the justices.
Seating is limited to a first-come, first-serve basis. Visitors queuing up for the sessions can choose from two lines—one for those visitors wanting to attend an entire argument session, the other for those who want to observe a session for approximately three minutes.
Inside the Supreme CourtFree public lectures on the Supreme Court are held in the Courtroom every hour on the half hour when the Court is not in session. These lectures are also limited to a first-come, first-serve basis.
After learning about the Judicial Branch of the United States Government at the Supreme Court you may want to proceed to the Executive Branch at the White House or the Legislative Branch in the Capitol Building (House of Representatives and Senate).
Slideshow—all photos on this page

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