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Has the US Supreme Court ever been unanimous?
Yes. The US Supreme Court has issued many unanimous verdicts during its history; however, this was more common in the past than it is today. The Roberts Court is polarized, with four ultra-conservative justices (Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito), four progressive justices (Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor), and one justice with a mixed voting record (Justice Kennedy).
As the swing vote, Justice Kennedy helps maintain balance on the Court.
As the swing vote, Justice Kennedy helps maintain balance on the Court.
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Yes. Unlike its requirement that the President be a "natural born" citizen, and the Senators and Representatives be at least "naturalized," the Constitution is silent on the c…itizenship and residency requirements for a Supreme Court Justice. Six Supreme Court justices were born outside the United States; however, only two listed* would be considered naturalized citizens under the laws operating at the time. James Wilson..........1789-1798.......(Scotland) James Iredell..........1790-1799.......(England) William Paterson......1793-1806.......(Ireland) David Brewer...........1889-1919........(Turkey) (born to American missionaries) George Sutherland...1922-1938.......(England)* Felix Frankfurter.......1939-1962.......(Austria)* George Sutherland George Sutherland was born in Buckinghamshire, England, in 1862, and emigrated to the United States with his parents in 1863. Sutherland attended the University of Michigan Law School, but left without earning a degree. He was admitted to the Michigan bar in 1883, then briefly entered private practice with his father, who had also become an attorney. Prior to joining the Supreme Court, Sutherland was a member of the House of Representatives (1901-1903) and US Senator from Utah (1905-1917). Warren Harding nominated Sutherland to the Supreme Court in September 1922. He was part of the ultra-conservative bloc of the Court, known collectively as the Four Horsemen, who opposed Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal legislation. Sutherland retired from the Court in 1938. Felix Frankfurter Felix Frankfurter (1882-1965), who was born in Austria and immigrated to America with his parents at the age of 12, graduated from Harvard Law School, and went on to become assistant to Henry Stimson (later Secretary of State under Hoover) as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He later followed Stimson to Washington when President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Stimson Secretary of War. Frankfurter was was a staunch supporter of Roosevelt, and worked on the "Bull Moose Campaign" of 1912, in an unsuccessful attempt to return Teddy to the Presidency after he lost the Republican nomination to William Howard Taft. After World War I, Frankfurter returned to Harvard as a Law Professor, where he remained until Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected in 1932. Frankfurter, an ardent supporter of President Roosevelt's New Deal, became a close and trusted advisor to the President. This lead to his nomination to the Supreme Court in 1939 (where he served until 1962). Although ideologically liberal, Frankfurter was the Court's most outspoken proponent of "judicial restraint," the belief that the Court should not interpret the law and Constitution in such as way as to place encumbering limits on the power of the Legislative and Executive branches. Although foreign-born, Frankfurter revered the Constitution and was considered extremely patriotic. Recent Supreme Court Hopefuls More recently, two-term Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, a naturalized citizen and Canadian by birth, was under consideration for nomination to the Supreme Court seat vacated by now-retired Justice David Souter, but her foreign birth (despite Canada being a neighboring country) became a major point of contention with political conservatives. You can draw several conclusions from this brief history: At present, Supreme Court Justices are most likely to be drawn from a pool of "natural born" citizens, but this is due to political considerations, rather than law. Naturalized citizens are eligible to serve on the Court. In order to become a naturalized citizen, a person must be at least 18 years old and must have been a permanent resident in the United States for at least five years, or for three years, if married to and continuously living with a spouse who's an American citizen. A person voluntarily serving in the US military is eligible to apply for citizenship after one year of service, or within six month of being honorably discharged. Non-citizen residents of the United States may or may not be legally eligible for a position on the Court, but politically, the likelihood of a non-citizen being nominated or confirmed by the Senate is virtually nil.
No. Sometimes verdicts are unanimous, but more often they are split down political and ideological lines. The Supreme Court has become increasingly polarized in the 20th and 2…1st Centuries, making unanimous decisions the exception, rather than the rule. The Supreme Court requires only a simple majority vote to decide a case: If all nine justices are present, five of the nine must agree. The Court must have a quorum of six justices to hear a case.
Yes, quite a few times. One famous instance in which the Supreme Court overruled its prior precedent was Brown v. Board of Education, the case which held that segregated schoo…ls denied African American children equal educational opportunities. In that case, the Court overruled Plessy v. Ferguson, (1896) (espousing the infamous "separate but equal" doctrine), relying heavily on findings from social science. The Supreme Court rarely overrules its own precedent, however, and will often find ways to distinguish a case (explain why that prior case is different from the case at bar and why the outcome here should be different) before it overturns it. When the Supreme court does overturn a case, it will usually do so explicitly and explain the rationale for its departure. The Congressional Research Service published a book on the US Constitution in which there were over 100 cases showing that the Supreme Court had overruled itself.
Answer Yes. An example would be Supreme Court decisions regarding the eighth amendment's prohibition of inflicting "cruel and unusual punishments". [The Supreme Court has ove…rturned quite a few precedents set in earlier cases, not just on Eighth Amendment grounds.] Answer If your question is whether the US Supreme Court ever reverses its decision in a particular case the Court has already heard, the answer is yes, but only a few times in history. In all cases, the losing party has 25 days to file a petition to the US Supreme Court for a rehearing of the case. Most petitions for rehearing are denied, but if the Court grants the motion, the case will be docketed for reargument. The most common reason for granting a rehearing appears to be instances where the lower court decision was affirmed by an equally divided court (tie vote) due to the absence of one of the nine Supreme Court justices. If the Court believes the issue raised is of sufficient importance, they will grant a rehearing, vacate their first, default, decision and reconsider the case with all justices present. Under most circumstances, the Court has reaffirmed the decision, allowing the case to set precedent. On a few occasions, the Court resolved a previous tie vote by reversing the lower court. Indian Towing Co., Inc. v. US, 350 US 61 (1955) Originally affirmed by an equally divided court, vacated, lower court decision reversed, case remanded on rehearing. Haliburton Oil Well Cementing Co. v. Walker, 329 US 1 (1946) Originally affirmed by an equally divided court, vacated, lower court decision reversed on rehearing. Toucey v. New York Life Insurance Co., 314 US 118 (1941) Originally affirmed by an equally divided court, vacated, lower court decision reversed on rehearing. Cases have occasionally been reheard and their original decision reversed due to the Court's error. City of New York, 147 US 72 (1893) Decision reversed because the wrong rules for supervision of city inspectors had been applied. City of New Orleans v. Warner, 176 US 385 (1899) Court overlooked the fact that a bill for services had been present to the Respondent. Whitney v. California, 274 US 357 (1927) Originally dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because the lower court records demonstrating the case contained a preserved federal question had been overlooked. A few cases have been reversed due to new evidence being presented, changes to federal laws, or a convincing argument being made against the first decision. Alderman v. US, 394 US 165 (1969) Previous decision vacated and case remanded to the US District Court for the District of Colorado for disposition. Bakery Drivers Local v. Wohl, 315 US 769 (1942) Originally affirmed a judgment sustaining an injunction, reversed on reconsideration. Brenham v. German American Bank, 144 US 549 (1892) Previous decision vacated and case remanded to lower court. The Court has also reversed its decision to deny certiorari for various reasons, although these cases would be categorized differently because the justices' decision on the merits wasn't reargued. Forgett v. US, 390 US 203 (1968) Certiorari initially denied, then granted on rehearing. Black v. US, 385 US 26 (1966) Certiorari initially denied, then granted on rehearing. US v. Ohio Power Co., 353 US 98 (1957) Certiorari initially denied, then granted on rehearing. The Court also agreed to rehear two cases under original jurisdiction (disputes between the states) and modified (but did not reverse) their original judgment. Wyoming v. Colorado, 259 US 419 (1922) Revised determination about how much water Colorado could divert from the Colorado River. Arizona v. California, 530 US 392 (2000) Water apportionment from the Colorado River, case initiated in 1952 and thereafter modified in 1955, 1964, 1979, and 1984. A search of the Justia Supreme Court database indicates the last time the Supreme Court agreed to reconsider a case under its appellate jurisdiction was 1969; the most recent case reconsidered under original jurisdiction was in 2000.
Yes, the US Supreme Court does make unanimous decisions in some cases; however, a decision only requires a simple majority vote of the justices hearing the case. If all nine j…ustices vote, only five need to agree to form a majority.
Until fairly recently, the Supreme Court consisted primarily of white men. Two African-American men have served on the Court: Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall (retired Jun…e 1991, deceased) Associate Justice Clarence Thomas (still seated) We have also had four female Justices on the Court: Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (retired 2006)Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (still seated)Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor (joined court in 2009) Associate Justice Elena Kagan (joined court in 2010) Sonia Sotomayor is Latina.
No. There are two types of votes in the US Supreme Court: When deciding whether to hear a case (grant certiorari), at least four justices must vote in favor. This is called t…he "rule of four." When making the final decision on the outcome of a case, the decision must be agreed upon by a simple majority of the court. If all nine justices hear the case, then five must agree to form a majority opinion.
Yes. Justice Samuel Chase was impeached by the House of Representatives in 1804, but was acquitted at his Senate trial in early 1805. Chase is the only US Supreme Court justic…e to have been impeached, but a few have had close calls. For more information, see Related Questions, below.
No. Sometimes verdicts are unanimous, but more often they are split down political and ideological lines. The Supreme Court has become increasingly polarized in the 20th a…nd 21st Centuries, making unanimous decisions the exception, rather than the rule. On the Roberts' Court, many decisions are made by a vote of 5-4, with the conservatives and progressives unable to agree on many issues. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has a mixed voting record, is typically the swing vote. The Supreme Court requires only a simple majority vote to decide a case: If all nine justices are present, five of the nine must agree. The Court must have a quorum of six justices to hear a case. YES, depending on the term. For the Court terms 2002-2014, Slate's Eric Posner reports that the Supreme Court handed down unanimous decisions in about half the cases they decided, while close 5-4 decisions were about 20% of the decisions. Fragmentation on the Supreme Court (close 5-4 decisions) was higher in the 1980's and before, but since about 1995 the fragmentation has been decreasing. YES. Over the last sixty years, unanimous decisions have been almost TWICE as common as close 5-4 decisions. In the Roberts Court (2005 - present), unanimous decisions have been delivered by the Court in about half the cases decided. Reported by Slate's Eric Posner (Professor of Law at University of Chicago), and brenbarn.net
Decisions are often split down political and ideological lines. The justices of the current US Supreme Court are polarized in their ideologies, with Chief Justice Roberts and …Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito representing an ultra-conservative bloc in opposition to Justices Stevens, Breyer, Ginsburg and Sotomayor, who represent the progressive bloc. Justice Kennedy's mixed voting record provides a degree of balance to the Court, and ensures not all decisions favor federalism and big business, or undermine civil rights and personal liberties. The ultra-conservative justices were commissioned in an era that began during the Reagan administration, when Republican political views moved to the extreme right. Presidents Reagan and both Presidents Bush attempted to select justices who reflected this ideology and were, for the most part, successful. All of the justices appointed under Republican administrations are still young (relatively speaking) and can be expected to remain on the Court for many more years, depriving the current Democratic President of replacing a conservative justice with a more liberal justice. Because the Republican administrations held sway for many years, the progressive justices tend to be older, and more likely to retire during Obama's tenure. This is unlikely to affect the balance of the Court, but will tend to support the ideological polarization.
The whole US Supreme Court? No. Supreme Court justices can only be removed from office by the two-step impeachment process, just like the US President and certain other gover…nment officials. Only one justice, Samuel Chase, has ever been impeached. The House of Representatives served Chase with eight articles of impeachment (charges) in 1804 as a political move against the Federalist Party. Chase was acquitted at his Senate trial in 1805 and remained on the Court until his death in 1811. Supreme Court justices can't be impeached - or fired - simply because some people don't like their decisions. They have to do something more objectively wrong (unethical, conflict of interest, illegal, abuse of office, etc.) to be removed from office. For more information, see Related Questions, below.
Yes. Sixteen justices have resigned from the Court since it was established in 1789. In the early years, the most common reason for resignation was the rigorous circuit riding… schedule that forced the justices to travel long distances, on horseback or by carriage, most of the year. John Jay, the first Chief Justice, resigned after being elected Governor of New York. After Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1869 that had a provision for retirement pay, more justices retired than resigned. Still, other justices continued to leave the Court due to illness, dislike of the work, or conflicts of interest. The following list shows which justices resigned in order of appointment, and includes the years served as well as the appointing President. 1.........John Jay, (CJ)..................1789 - 1795........Washington 4.........John Blair, Jr....................1790 - 1795........Washington 5.........John Rutledge..................1790 - 1791........Washington 7.........Thomas Johnson..............1792 - 1793........Washington 32.......Benjamin R. Curtis............1857 - 1857........Filmore 33.......John Archibald Campbell....1853 - 1861........Pierce 37........David David....................1862 - 1877........Lincoln 62.......Charles Evans Hughes.......1910 - 1916........Taft 65.......Mahlon Pitney...................1912 - 1922........Taft 68.......John Hessein Clark............1916 - 1922........Wilson 69.......William H. Taft (CJ)...........1921 - 1930.........Harding 74.......Owen Roberts...................1930 - 1945........Hoover 81.......James F. Byrnes................1941 - 1942........Roosevelt 91.......Charles Evans Whittaker.....1957 - 1962.........Eisenhower 94.......Arthur Goldburg................1962 - 1965.........Kennedy 95........Abe Fortas.......................1965 - 1969.........Johnson
The US Supreme Court has overturned many of its own past decisions (the list would be too long for this format); however, there were a few instances when a decision was nullif…ied by constitutional amendment. These are the only two ways a Supreme Court decision may be overturned. Only one constitutional amendment was ratified in direct response to a Supreme Court decision: The Eleventh Amendment. The Eleventh Amendment revoked the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction over conflicts between a state and citizens of another state. This change was made in response to the decision in Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 U.S. 419 (1793), in which the Court declared the states lacked sovereign immunity against being sued in equity cases (mostly over land disputes), and made a large award to Chisholm against the state of Georgia. The States rightly assumed this precedent could quickly send them into bankruptcy, and petitioned Congress to amend the Constitution for their protection. The Eleventh Amendment now provides for diversity jurisdiction in the District Court, meaning the lower courts in the state being sued have original jurisdiction over these disputes. Eleventh Amendment "The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by citizens of another state, or by citizens or subjects of any foreign state."
A unanimous opinion of the US Supreme Court is an opinion that all justices agree on.
Justice Elena Kagan, whom President Barack Obama appointed in 2011, is the fourth woman to serve on the US Supreme Court.