The highest court in the US is often the final word on highly contentious laws, disputes between states and the federal government, and final appeals to stay executions.
It hears fewer than 100 cases a year and the key announcements are made in June. Each of the nine justices serve a lifetime appointment after being nominated by the president and approved by the Senate.
Cases are usually brought to the court after they are appealed from a series of lower courts, although in time-sensitive cases, lawyers can petition for a hearing. The court’s opinions can also create precedents, directing other judges to follow their interpretation in similar cases.
In recent years, the court has expanded gay marriage to all 50 states, halted President Obama’s immigration orders and delayed a US plan to cut carbon emissions while appeals went forward.
Occasionally, the Supreme Court will revisit an issue in a new case and change their own precedent, a move anti-abortion activists hope will come to pass with a new conservative justice.
The case that interest me the most is Carpenter v United States, which is another application of 18th-century rights to the 21st comes in Carpenter v United States, a case asking whether the right to privacy extends to information beamed out from mobile phones. In 2011, when Timothy Carpenter was arrested for organizing a series of armed robberies, the FBI built its case on four months of mobile-phone data showing where he was when the crimes took place. This information was retrieved under a law permitting phone companies to divulge information to corroborate “specific and articulate facts” relevant to a criminal investigation. By placing Mr Carpenter within a stone’s throw of the robberies based on the antennae through which he placed and received calls, the FBI was able to map his movements and convict him without ever securing a warrant from a judge. In Carpenter, the justices will ask whether this tactic violated the Fourth Amendment’s ban on “unreasonable searches and seizures”.