Article III, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution provides that The judicial Power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.


The highest court in the federal court system is the U.S. Supreme Court. (Note: Whenever the word Court is used with a capital C in this text, the reference is to the U.S. Supreme Court. The word court with a lowercase c refers to all other courts on the federal or state level.) It is composed of a chief justice and eight associate justices, all of whom are nominated and appointed by the president of the United States with the advice and consent of the Senate.


A federal law passed in 1869 fixed the number of U.S. Supreme Court justices at nine, but this number can be changed by law. Supreme Court justices enjoy life tenure and may be removed only by impeachment, which very rarely occurs. The Court is located in Washington, D.C., and always decides cases en banc (as one body), never in division (small groups or panels).