The Supreme Court - Reading Comprehension
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The Supreme Court
By Phyllis Naegeli
  

1     The Supreme Court is the highest court in our nation. Nine judges - called justices - serve on the Supreme Court. They are appointed by the president, approved by the Senate, and may serve on the court for the rest of their lives. Cases brought before this court for review come from the lower federal courts. They may also come from the highest state courts - if the case involves a constitutional question. The court does not hear every case presented to it. It can refuse to hear a case without explanation. In essence, refusing to hear a case is an unspoken agreement with the decision of the lower court as it leaves the decision final.
 
2     The Supreme Court has original and appellate jurisdiction. Most cases involving federal or constitutional law begin in the district courts. Once these cases have gone through the lower courts, they can be appealed to the Supreme Court. These cases involve the appellate jurisdiction of the court. On rare occasions, the Supreme Court can exercise original jurisdiction to hear cases affecting ambassadors or foreign officials. The Supreme Court always has original jurisdiction to hear cases between two states.
 
3     When the Supreme Court decides to hear a case, the petitioner and the respondent each prepare a written brief. The justices may also request a "friend of the court" brief. This happens when a particular group is not directly involved in a case but may be affected by the outcome. Once the court has all briefs, the justices hear oral arguments from each side. Attorneys representing the parties in the case have a strict limit of thirty minutes to present their case. During this time, the justices may interrupt to ask questions in order to clarify the information given. No additional time is granted for these interruptions. Time limits are so strictly adhered to that attorneys may be cut off mid-sentence when the clock expires.

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