The Supreme Court wasn’t given its own building until 1935. At one point, the justices gathered in the basement of the U.S. Capitol!

Ian Dagnall/Alamy Stock Photo

STANDARDS

Common Core: RH.6-8.1,RH.6-8.2, RH.6-8.3, RH.6-8.4,RH.6-8.5, WHST.6-8.2, WHST.6-8.9, RI.6-8.1, RI.6-8.3, RI.6-8.6, RI.6-8.7, RI.6-8.10, SL.6-8.1, SL.6-8.2

NCSS: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions • Power, Authority, and Governance • Civic Ideals and Practices

JS EXPLAINS

A Day in the Life of . . .

A Supreme Court Justice

What if you had to make a decision that would affect the lives of millions of people? Members of the U.S. Supreme Court make those hard calls all the time. Read on to find out what a day as a justice might be like. 

8:00 A.M.

Welcome to Work! 

You’re the chief justice, or head judge, of the most powerful court in the country. Along with federal courts and judges, the Supreme Court forms the judicial branch of the government. The Court’s term runs from October through June or July. Today you report for work at the Supreme Court Building (above) in Washington, D.C. 

8:30 A.M.

Prepare for Court

The Supreme Court’s nine justices determine whether laws passed by Congress or the states violate the Constitution. If so, the Court can overturn them. Before today’s session, you look over the cases you’ll be hearing. Most cases you hear are appeals, or requests for a new ruling on a lower court’s decision.

10:00 A.M.

First Hearing

All rise as you and the other justices enter the courtroom. When the Supreme Court hears a case, there is no jury—and no witnesses are called. For this case, lawyers present oral arguments. Each side is allowed 30 minutes to argue its case. 

11:00 A.M.

Second Hearing

The second case you hear today challenges whether a climate change law recently passed by Congress is constitutional. By reviewing a law passed by Congress or an order made by the president, the Supreme Court “checks and balances” the power of the other branches of government.

12:00 P.M.

Break for Food!

You pop by the Supreme Court cafeteria. The newest justice oversees the cafeteria committee. After lunch, you give the frozen yogurt machine a try. Turns out even justices get brain freeze. Ow!

1:00 P.M.

Get Ready for a Vote

Court is finished for today, but you need to prepare for a meeting later this week. You’ll be leading the other justices in a discussion and a vote about the cases that you just heard. The Court’s most senior justice in the majority will decide who writes the statement explaining the Court’s decision, known as the opinion. (A justice on the minority side often writes a dissenting, or opposing, opinion.) The majority opinion is the final ruling on the case.

3:00 P.M.

Review Petitions

Next, you evaluate petitions for new cases. The Court is asked to hear thousands of cases each term but accepts only about 80. For a case to make the cut, at least four justices must agree to hear it. You’re intrigued by an appeal to a digital privacy law. The case would raise questions about how the 232-year-old Constitution applies today.

5:30 P.M.

Dinner With the Justices

The justices often get together for meals. It’s a chance to get to know one another better, although some of you have been working together for years. (Justices—who are nominated by the president and approved by the Senate—serve for life, or until they retire.) 

8:00 P.M.

Bring On Netflix!

It’s been a long day protecting the constitutional rights of the American people. Serving on one of the most respected courts in the world is hard work—and you’re ready to zone out. Time to binge-watch Stranger Things!

Back to top
videos (1)
Skills Sheets (5)
Skills Sheets (5)
Skills Sheets (5)
Skills Sheets (5)
Skills Sheets (5)
Lesson Plan (2)
Lesson Plan (2)