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U.S. Supreme Court

A brief look at the history and function of the Supreme Court including material at the BPL and beyond.


The U.S. Supreme Court was first established in 1789 in accordance with Article III of the U.S. Constitution. The Court traditionally has one Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices, making nine Justices altogether.

Current Supreme Court Justices

Name Title Year Appointed (Nominating President)  
John G. Roberts, Jr. Chief Justice 2005 (George W. Bush) Books @ BPL
Clarence Thomas Associate Justice 1991 (George H. W. Bush) Books @ BPL
Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr. Associate Justice 2006 (George W. Bush) Books @ BPL
Sonia Sotomayor Associate Justice 2009 (Barack Obama) Books @ BPL
Elena Kagan Associate Justice 2010 (Barack Obama) Books @ BPL
Neil Gorsuch Associate Justice 2017 (Donald Trump) Books @ BPL
Brett Kavanaugh Associate Justice 2018 (Donald Trump) Books @ BPL
Amy Coney Barrett Associate Justice 2020 (Donald Trump) Books @ BPL
Ketanji Brown Jackson Associate Justice 2022 (Joe Biden)  

The Supreme Court, 1937


Statue of Contemplation of Justice by James Earle Fraser on the main steps

Retired Justices

There is no mandatory retirement age for Justices because it is a lifetime appointment. When a Justice wishes to retire, they submit a letter to the President stating their intentions. Justices often retire due to advanced age and/or poor health, although they frequently have other reasons. There are currently three retired Associate Justices who are still living.

Retired Justices

Name (Nominating President) Years Served Reason For Retiring  
David Souter (George H. W. Bush) 1990-2009 Desire to move back to New Hampshire. Books @ BPL
Anthony Kennedy (Ronald Reagan) 1988-2018 Desire to spend more time with family. Books @ BPL
Stephen Breyer (Bill Clinton) 1994-2022 Unknown. Books @ BPL

David Souter

Anthony Kennedy

Stephen Breyer

Supreme Court Building

The Supreme Court did not have a permanent meeting place in Washington D.C. until 1810, when it moved into the U.S. Capitol Building. It moved a few times within the building until the current Supreme Court building was constructed in 1935. The building is located at 1 First Street NE in Washington, D.C. and is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9am to 4:30pm.

Front facade of Supreme Court building.


The Supreme Court Building- From
Supreme Court Building- From the Architect of the Capitol

One of two self-supporting spiral staircases inside the building.