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Supreme Court, United States

Membership

Members of the court are appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. Like all federal judges, they retain their office indefinitely during "good behavior" (only in one instance—that of Justice Samuel Chase in 1805—were impeachment proceedings ever brought against a member of the Supreme Court).

The size of the Supreme Court is not prescribed by the Constitution; it is set by statute. The court began in 1789 with six members and was increased to seven in 1807, to nine in 1837, and to ten in 1863. In 1866 the membership was reduced to eight to prevent President Andrew Johnson from filling any vacancies. Since 1869, the court has comprised nine members.

By 2007 a total of 110 Justices, 108 men and 2 women, had sat on the bench. Five served both as associate justice and as chief justice; they were John Rutledge (appointed chief justice in 1795 but never confirmed by the Senate), Edward D. White (appointed to the court in 1894 and chief justice from 1910 to 1921), Charles Evans Hughes (an associate justice from 1910 to 1916, he served as chief justice from 1930 to 1941), Harlan F. Stone (appointed to the court in 1925 and chief justice from 1941 to 1946), and William H. Rehnquist (appointed associate justice in 1971 and chief justice from 1986 to 2005). See the table entitled Supreme Court Justices for a chronological list of all chief justices and associate justices.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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