21 U.S. Supreme Court Statistics

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West façade of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC

The United States is getting ready to appoint the next judge to the nation’s highest court. So, let’s examine U.S. Supreme Court statistics throughout the country’s history.

Intro:

  • The U.S. Supreme Court is the highest tribunal in the country for all cases and issues regarding the Constitution or the laws of the United States. 

  • The Supreme Court of the United States is abbreviated and also known as SCOTUS.

  • The Supreme Court has been deciding cases since 1791.

The U.S. Supreme Court Statistics

#1 – The Supreme Court of the United States was created by the Judiciary Act of September 24, 1789, and was later organized on February 2, 1790.

The number of Members

#2 – Congress set the number of Supreme Court members six times:

YearNumber of Supreme Court Judges
17896
18077
18379
186310
18667
18699

#3 – As of March 28, 2022, there are nine members of SCOTUS:

  • John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice of the United States
  • Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice
  • Stephen G. Breyer, Associate Justice
  • Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Associate Justice
  • Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice
  • Elena Kagan, Associate Justice
  • Neil M. Gorsuch, Associate Justice
  • Brett M. Kavanaugh, Associate Justice
  • Amy Coney Barrett, Associate Justice

#4 – 115 individuals have served on the SCOTUS, with 103 as associate judges.

#5 – The nine justices sit by seniority on the bench, with the Chief Justice sitting in the middle.

Milestones from individuals

#6 – The longest-serving Judge was William O. Douglas.  He served 36 years, 7 months, and 8 days from 1939 to 1975 on the Court. 

#7 –  George Washington made 11 appointments to the Supreme Court, the most of any president.

#8 – Louis D. Brandeis (1916-1939) was the first Jewish Supreme court justice.

#9 – The first African-American on the court was Thurgood Marshall. He was appointed on September 1, 1967.

#10 – The first woman on the court was Sandra Day O’Conner. She was appointed on September 25, 1981.

#9 – Sonia Sotomayor (2009-present) was the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice.

#10 –  Joseph Story, who was 32 years old when he joined the Court in 1811, was the youngest judge appointed.

#11 – Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., (1902-1932) was the oldest person to serve. He was 90 years old when he retired from the Court.

#12 – Ketanji Brown Jackson was nominated on February 25, 2022, by President Joe Biden to become the 116th associate Justice of SCOTUS. She graduated from Harvard University, attended Harvard Law School, and then was an editor of the Harvard Law Review.

#13 – Although there are no official requirements for becoming a Supreme Court justice, all judges were lawyers before joining the SCOTUS.

#14 – Only one Supreme Court justice has been impeached, Samuel Chase. However, he was acquitted in 1805. 

Chief Justice

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides the discussion amongst the judges and plays an active role in the cases that go before the Supreme Court. However, the vote of the Chief Justice counts equally with their peers when deciding a case.

#15 – Seventeen chief justices have been named from 1789 until the present. Five chief justices have also served as associate judges.

#16 – The first chief justice of the Supreme Court of the United States was John Jay, appointed on October 19, 1789.

#17 – John Jay (1789-1795) was also the youngest Chief Justice at 44 years old when he took his oath of office.

#18 – William Taft is the only person to serve as both president (1909-1913) and Chief Justice (1921 – 1930).

Cases

#19 – The first opinion given by SCOTUS was on August 3, 1791, in the case of West v. Barnes. West was a farmer in Rhode Island who tried to pay the mortgage of his farm with paper currency instead of gold or silver. He was then sued by Barnes, who refused the paper payment. Subsequently, the defendant, Mr. West, lost the case.

The following graphs are from supremecourt.gov‘s year-end report on the federal judiciary system:

U.S. Supreme Court statistics indicating number of cases filed versus cases argued from 1985 - 2022

Based on the data:

#20 – Although the Supreme Court receives about 6,260 cases for review each year, it agrees to hear an average of 100.

#21 – In the 2020 judicial term, although the Supreme Court received 5,307 cases for review, it heard 73.

Were the Supreme Court statistics appeal-ing?

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