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Supreme Court Adds a Balance of Power
By Kate Tuohy

Supreme Court Justices
The nine U.S. Supreme Court Justices pose for an official picture at the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., on December 5, 2003.
(Photo: Jason Reed/Reuters/Corbis)
The United States Supreme Court is the highest court in the nation and is made up of one Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices.

The Supreme Court is the judicial branch of the three branches of government. The other two are the legislative branch (Congress) and the executive branch (the President).

Each branch of government has certain powers that allow it to control, or check, the powers of the other two. This process is called checks and balances. It prevents any one branch of government from having or exercising too much power.

The Supreme Court is the absolute authority on the most important issues affecting the constitutional rights of Americans. Judicial review gives the Court the power to dismiss or reverse laws that are unconstitutional.

The President of the United States, with Senate approval, chooses Supreme Court Justices. Justices have their jobs for life, unless they retire, resign, or are impeached (removed from office) for official misconduct. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the first female member of the Supreme Court, resigned this summer.

"It has been a great privilege indeed to have served as a member of the Court for 24 terms," O'Connor said in her resignation letter to President Bush. "I will leave it with enormous respect for the integrity of the Court and its role under our constitutional structure."

President Bush nominated Federal Appeals Court Judge John G. Roberts to replace O'Connor.

For more information about Constitution Day, visit the National Constitution Center's Web site at www.constitutioncenter.org.