V
COURTS AT HOME: II THE SUPREME COURT

AT THE ZENITH: THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT

The most dazzling jewel in the judicial crown of the United States is the revered and often controversial United States Supreme Court. It is the sole court mentioned specifically in Article III or in any other part of the Constitution, all other federal courts having been created by statute. The Supreme Court, the national symbol of justice, stands at the very pinnacle of the judiciary: there is no higher court, and all others bow before it -- or, at least, are expected to do so. At times having had as few as five, and as many as ten, justices in the first eighty years of its venerable history, the Court has stood at nine ever since the first term of President Grant in 1869. Prior thereto, as dictated by various policy considerations, its congressionally fixed membership comprised: five in 1789; six in 1790; seven in 1807; nine in 1837; ten in 1863; and eight in 1866.

The Supreme Court consists of the Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices, the former being rewarded since 1965 with an annual salary of $40,000, the latter with $39,500 each -- this is less than judges of some states, e.g. New York, receive.1 But the nonsalary compensations, frequently called "psychic income" by college professors, are undoubtedly considerable. (The retirement prerogatives were discussed in Chapter II.)

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1
An illustration of petty congressional pique vis- -- -vis the Supreme Court, mo- tivated chiefly by its momentous and trail-blazing civil rights and liberty deci- sions of the 1950's and 1960's, was the refusal of Congress in 1964 and again in 1965 to give the Chief Justice and his associates on the Court the same $7500 pay increase granted all lower federal court judges. Instead the members of the highest tribunal had to settle for a $4500 raise.

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