The Supreme Court of the United States, also known as SCOTUS, is the apex of the federal judiciary system in the United States. Its establishment in 1789 was mandated by Article Three of the United States Constitution. The Court's primary role is to interpret the Constitution, making it a cornerstone of the American democratic system. It has the final say on legal disputes involving federal law, including both civil and criminal matters, and holds the power of judicial review, which allows it to invalidate laws and executive actions it deems unconstitutional.
The Court is housed in the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C., an architectural masterpiece designed by Cass Gilbert. This imposing structure, made of marble from Vermont, Georgia, and Alabama, is a symbol of justice and authority. Its magnificent interiors reflect a similar grandeur, with high ceilings, grand corridors, and meticulously detailed design elements that underscore the importance of the institution it houses.
Why should you go?
Rich historical insights. The Supreme Court's historical role in shaping the United States cannot be overstated. From landmark rulings on civil liberties to pivotal interpretations of constitutional law, the Court has been instrumental in defining the nature of American democracy. A visit to the Court is a journey through the annals of American history.
Architectural marvel. The Supreme Court Building, completed in 1935, is a testament to classic architectural style. The building's exterior, adorned with a grand staircase and towering columns, is a sight to behold. Inside, the magnificence continues with lavish courtrooms, splendid corridors, and an awe-inspiring library.
Educational value. The Court is a treasure trove of knowledge for those interested in law, history, political science, and architecture. Through various exhibits and resources, visitors can learn about pivotal cases, influential justices, and the evolution of American law.
Democracy in action. The Supreme Court allows public observation of oral arguments on a first-come, first-served basis when it is in session, presenting a rare opportunity to witness the highest level of judicial proceedings in the United States.
Exhibitions and lectures. The Court hosts regular exhibitions and lectures on a variety of legal and historical topics. These informative sessions provide a deeper understanding of the Supreme Court's role and the broader American legal system.
Iconic statues. The Court's grounds are adorned with symbolic statues, including the famous "Contemplation of Justice" and "Authority of Law." These intricate sculptures offer thoughtful reflections on the nature of justice and the rule of law.
Free admission. Admission to the Supreme Court is free of charge, making it an affordable yet enriching experience for all visitors.
Best places to visit near the Supreme Court Of the United States
United States Capitol. This iconic building is just a short walk from the Supreme Court and offers guided tours to explore the legislative branch of the government.
Library of Congress. Located adjacent to the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, housing a vast collection of books, manuscripts, maps, and more. You can take a tour and view stunning architecture and exhibits.
National Mall. This historic park stretches from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, encompassing various monuments and memorials, such as the Washington Monument, World War II Memorial, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Smithsonian Museums. The Smithsonian Institution consists of several museums, most of which are located on or near the National Mall. The closest ones to the Supreme Court are the National Gallery of Art, the National Museum of American History, and the National Air and Space Museum.
Union Station. This beautifully restored historic train station is just a 10-minute walk from the Supreme Court. It is not only a transportation hub but also a vibrant retail and dining destination. It features architectural grandeur, shopping options, restaurants, and occasional special exhibits.
Eastern Market. Located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, this lively public market offers you fresh produce, artisanal products, antiques, and crafts. It's a great place to explore and grab a bite to eat.
Barracks Row. About a mile from the Supreme Court, Barracks Row is a historic commercial district with a charming atmosphere. It offers a range of dining options, boutique shops, and local events.
Nationals Park. If you're a baseball fan, catching a game at Nationals Park can be a fun experience. Located just a short drive from the Supreme Court, the stadium is home to the Washington Nationals and offers a great view of the city skyline.
The Wharf. Located along the Potomac River, The Wharf is a vibrant waterfront neighborhood featuring a variety of dining, shopping, and entertainment options. You can enjoy waterfront walks, take boat tours, or dine at one of the many restaurants with scenic views.
What are the most interesting and unique facts about the Supreme Court of the United States?
For the first 145 years of its existence, the Court convened in various places, including the room in the United States Capitol, which is now known as the Old Supreme Court Chamber. The architectural masterpiece of 1935 is the first and only purpose-built building to house the Court.
The main entrance to the Supreme Court Building features a pair of bronze doors, each weighing six and a half tons. When you enter the building, take a moment to admire the artistic details on these doors, which depict historic scenes from the development of law.
One of the main highlights of the building’s interior is the bronze statue of Chief Justice John Marshall, who served for 34 years from 1801 to 1835.
In 2015, famous Lego enthusiast Maia Weinstock created a custom Lego set featuring the first four female Supreme Court Justices: Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Elena Kagan.
What's the best way to see the Supreme Court of the United States for tourists?
Plan your visit in advance. The Supreme Court building is typically open Monday through Friday, except on federal holidays, from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM. There are no admission fees. However, it's always wise to check the official Supreme Court website for the most up-to-date information and any special closures.
Listen to a courtroom lecture. When the Court is not sitting, visitors can explore the building on a self-guided basis and take part in courtroom lectures. These lectures are offered every hour on the half-hour, lasting approximately 30 minutes. They cover the judicial functions of the Supreme Court, the history of the building, and the architecture of the courtroom.
Attend an argument session. If you're interested in seeing the Court in action, you can attend an oral argument, typically held Monday through Wednesday. These are open to the public, but seating is on a first-come, first-served basis, and lines can form early. To increase your chances of getting a seat, arrive early in the morning. The argument calendars and schedules are posted on the Supreme Court's website.