The Supreme Court
The Constitution established the Supreme Court as the highest court in the United States. The authority of the Court originates from Article III of the U.S. Constitution and its jurisdiction is set out by statute in Title 28 of the U.S. Code.
One of the Supreme Courtís most important responsibilities is to decide cases that raise questions of constitutional interpretation. The Court decides if a law or government action violates the Constitution. This is known as judicial review and enables the Court to invalidate both federal and state laws when they conflict with the Constitution. Since the Supreme Court stands as the ultimate authority in constitutional interpretation, its decisions can be changed only by another Supreme Court decision or by a constitutional amendment.
Judicial review puts the Supreme Court in a pivotal role in the American political system, making it the referee in disputes among various branches of the Federal, as well as state governments, and as the ultimate authority for many of the most important issues in the country. For example, in 1954, the Court banned racial segregation in public schools in Brown v. Board of Education. The ruling started a long process of desegregating schools and other institutions.
The Supreme Court exercises complete authority over the federal courts, but it has only limited power over state courts. The Court has the final word on cases heard by federal courts, and it writes procedures that these courts must follow. All federal courts must abide by the Supreme Courtís interpretation of federal laws and the Constitution of the United States. The Supreme Courtís interpretations of federal law and the Constitution also apply to the state courts, but the Court cannot interpret state law or issues arising under state constitutions, and it does not supervise state court operations.