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  1. The United States Constitution
  2. Legislative Branch
  3. Executive Branch
  4. The Judicial Branch
  5. Voting
  6. Political Parties
  7. State and Local Government
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The Judicial Branch
Article III of the U.S. Constitution established the judicial branch of the government. The Supreme Court is the only court described in Article III, but the lower courts were later organized by Congress. America’s courts interpret laws and determine if they violate the Constitution. The Supreme Court was organized in 1790 and consists of eight associate justices and one chief justice. The chief justice reviews cases with the associate justices and leads the federal judicial system. The president of the United States nominates justices who must also gain Senate approval. Justices are appointed for life, but usually serve about 16 years. A Supreme Court term lasts from the first Monday in October to the first Monday of the following year. The Supreme Court carefully chooses the cases it will review, which is difficult because it receives over 8,000 petitions yearly. According to the U.S. Constitution, this court may review cases that involve ambassadors, government officials, maritime disputes, the U.S. government, and cases between states. Many requests involve cases where the litigant hopes to appeal a lower court’s decision. The well-known 1954 Supreme Court case known as Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka desegregated America’s schools. The Supreme Court’s first African-American justice, Thurgood Marshall, was appointed in 1967. The first Italian-American to serve on the court is Antonin Scalia who became a justice in 1986. In 1981, President Reagan nominated Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to sit on the court.
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