What is a Supreme Court Order?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A Supreme Court order is a legal directive from the Supreme Court of the United States in response to a filing or case argued in front of it. As the court of last resort in the United States, the Supreme Court is the ultimate authority. Once it issues an order, the subject of the order has no further recourse. No higher court can reverse orders. This term can also refer to an order from a state's Supreme Court, in which case it is possible to appeal the matter to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone

Justices on the Supreme Court review a wide variety of cases every year. They must determine which cases to hear and issue rulings on matters where there may be no legal precedent, forcing the justices to develop and support a legal argument to justify their decisions. In a Supreme Court order, the justices may issue a directive sending a case back to a lower court, overturn a case, or rule on a matter of law, such as a determination that a law is unconstitutional.

When a case comes before the Supreme Court, it is often a topic of public attention, as there is a great deal of interest in the outcome. This court is supposed to be a politically neutral body, with justices serving from the time the president appoints them to the date they choose to step down, usually because they wish to retire from public service. The neutrality of the court is critical, as it acts as one of the checks and balances on the other two branches of government and has the power to shape the direction of legal thinking in the United States.

In addition to a Supreme Court order, judges can also release an opinion, explaining in more depth how they reached the decision they did. Justices who disagree may issue their own response. These dissenting opinions can be a valuable source of information as they provide insight into the logic of the justices and may include legal theory people can use in arguing other cases. In a high profile case, multiple judges may release their opinions on the matter, and these become part of the court record.

As with any other court order, people must comply with a Supreme Court order unless it is physically impossible to do so. The court can issue orders to individuals, companies, government agencies, and members of government. If someone cannot follow the directive in the Supreme Court order, that person needs to provide documentation to show why it would be impossible.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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