How many justices are on the Supreme Court?
The Supreme Court of the United States, established by the Constitution in 1789, is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States. The court consists of the Chief Justice of the United States and a number of Associate Justices that are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Once appointed, justices have life tenure unless they resign, retire, or are removed after impeachment.
While the Constitution establishes the Supreme Court, it doesn't determine the number of justices that should make up the court. The Judiciary Act of 1789 set the number at six: one Chief Justice and five Associate Justices. In 1807, Congress increased the number of justices to seven; in 1837, the number was bumped up to nine; and in 1863, it rose to ten. In 1866, Congress passed the Judicial Circuits Act, which shrank the size of the Supreme Court to seven justices by attrition. However, three years later, in 1869, the Circuit Judges Act returned the number of justices to nine, where it has remained ever since.
The idea of changing the number of justices on the Supreme Court, also known as court packing, has been a controversial topic in U.S. politics. Some argue that the court should be expanded to reduce the influence of individual justices and make the court more representative, while others argue that this could undermine the court's independence and politicize the judiciary.
As of 2023, there are still nine justices on the Supreme Court.