According to the Constitution of the United States, the judicial power of the nation resides in the Supreme Court. Nominated by the President of the United States, the Supreme Court Justices hear cases that often lead to landmark legal decisions, most notably 1973’s “Roe v. Wade” ruling on abortion rights.
Since its first gathering in 1790, the United States Supreme Court has acquired an interesting and colorful history. In honor of Elena Kagan, the latest Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, here are some facts from the bench:
The Supreme Court Dress Code: The justices come dressed for work and visitors should follow suit. Anyone wishing to watch the Supreme Court in action must be “properly attired” or they will not be allowed to enter the courtroom.
The “Jewish Seat”: From 1932 to 1970, the sitting President of the United States kept up a “tradition” to have at least one Jewish member of the Supreme Court. Starting with President Herbert Hoover’s nomination of Benjamin Cardozo, the trend continued until Richard Nixon broke the streak by nominating Harry Blackmun, a Methodist.
While President Bill Clinton was in office, he reinstated the tradition with the nominations of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.
Miranda rights: When arresting a suspect, police are required to read them their “Miranda rights,” including the right to “remain silent” and representation by an attorney. Named after Ernesto Miranda, this police procedure came from a landmark Supreme Court decision in the case of “Miranda v. Arizona.”
FDR tries to pack the court: After the Supreme Court rejected some provisions in his “New Deal” plans, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt decided to stack the deck by packing the court. The U.S. Constitution sets no limits on the number of justices, so Roosevelt introduced the “Judiciary Reorganization Bill” in 1937.
This legislation would have allowed the President of the United States to appoint a new justice for every sitting member of the Supreme Court over the age of 70. That would have given Roosevelt 6 new appointees and a chance to sway the Supreme Court in his favor. The Senate passed an amended version of the bill, one without Roosevelt’s “court packing” provision, however.
Sandra Day O’Connor and “First Monday in October”: In 1978, a play called “First Monday in October” debuted on Broadway. A political comedy, the story deals with the nomination of the first female Justice of the Supreme Court.
As a big screen adaptation of the play was heading to theaters, life imitated art with the nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor to the Supreme Court. O’Connor’s confirmation hearings created plenty of buzz around the movie.
The white collar: O’Connor, the first female Justice, also was a trendsetter for her colleagues. In addition to her traditional black robe, O’Connor wore a white collar, similar to the one that many female college graduates are required to wear. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second female Supreme Court Justice, keeps up that tradition.