Supreme Court Justice Qualifications


The United States Supreme Court consists of nine lifetime-appointed members who hold the power to interpret both federal laws and the U. S. Constitution. Although there are no specific qualifications outlined in the Constitution, all Supreme Court justices must hold themselves to the highest ethical standards and not let their political views influence their legal reasoning.


  • Although there are no formal qualifications to become a Supreme Court justice, every justice who has been nominated has previously been an attorney. The President of the United States nominates a candidate for the Supreme Court; however, that candidate cannot take the bench unless she is confirmed by a majority vote from the U.S. Senate.


  • According to The Supreme Court Historical Society, the court was first convened in 1790 with Chief Justice John Jay at the head. The first landmark case came in 1803 when the court established its power to interpret the Constitution. Since its inception, the court has seen 17 chief justices, the most recent being Justice John G. Roberts, appointed in 2005 by President George W. Bush.


  • The Supreme Court consists of eight associate justices and one chief justice for a total of nine members; however, this was not always the case. The first court in 1790 consisted of only six total members and in 1807 that number was increased to seven. Over the course of time, the court continued to alter the number of justices before finally settling on nine in 1869.


  • Contrary to popular belief, Supreme Court justices can be removed from the bench. Although each justice serves a lifetime appointment, any justice can be removed for not holding their office during good behavior, as outlined in Article III of the U.S. Constitution. Removal can only occur if the justice is impeached by a majority House vote and is subsequently convicted by a two-thirds Senate vote.


  • Once appointed to the bench, a Supreme Court justice can stay on the bench until she dies, retires or is impeached. According to U.S. News and World Report, upon retirement, Supreme Court justices retain their full salary and health benefits for the remainder of their lives. The only retirement requirement is for the retiring justice to have a minimum of 10 years of service as long the justice's age and total years of service equal 80.


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