It may be somewhat surprising, but when the Supreme Court first assembled (February 2nd, 1790), it was disregarded, and it’s justices, including Alexander Hamilton and John Rutledge, frequently stepped down and retired to pursue other opportunities.
The Supreme Court, or SCOTUS, is the only court established by the U.S. Constitution (Article Three), and under the Judiciary Act of 1789, the Court was to be composed of six members. As the highest federal court in the United States, SCOTUS has discretionary appellate jurisdiction, or the authority to hear appeals to cases decided by all lower federal and state court cases at their volition. This court is the highest and final interpreter of federal laws and the Constitution.
While Congress set the number of justices to six in the Judiciary Act of 1789, the Constitution did not and still does not specify the number of justices. As westward expansion increased, Congress voted to add justices as needed to deal with cases from the growing number of judicial courts. In 1807, Supreme Court justices were increased to seven, and then to nine in 1837. In 1863, the number was raised to ten; just three years later, Congress–on behalf of Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, passed an act reducing the number of justices back to seven. However, in 1869, Congress passed the Circuit Judges Act setting the number back to nine, where it remains over a hundred years later.
Although the Supreme Court was soon recognized as its role as a coequal branch of government, it did not have its own building until 1935–nearly two hundred years after its establishment. On October 13, 1932, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes expresses the importance of the Supreme Court in the American system as he laid the cornerstone for the building, “The Republic endures, and this is the symbol of its faith.”
After three years of construction, the Court was finally provided a building of its own. The court building was appropriated nearly $10 million to complete construction and furnishings, although $94,000 was returned to the Treasury upon completion.
The Supreme Court was given a classical Corinthian architectural style to harmonize with nearby congressional buildings. The design was crafted to portray the importance and dignity of the Court and the Judiciary as a coequal, independent branch of the government. It is a representative symbol of “the national ideal of justice in the highest sphere of activity.”