The Supreme Court is the Nation's highest court. Eight Associate Justices and one Chief Justice comprise the membership of the Court. Like all Federal judges, Supreme Court Justices serve lifetime appointments on the Court, in accordance with Article III of the United States Constitution. In 211 years, there have been just 17 Chief Justices, and a total of 112 Justices have served on the Supreme Court.
The Constitution vests the Supreme Court with:
"The Judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority, to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls; to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction; to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party; to Controversies between two or more States; between a State and Citizens of another State; between Citizens of different States; between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects." (Article III, Section I, United States Constitution)
When a vacancy occurs on the Supreme Court, the President of the United States is given the authority, under Article II of the United States Constitution, to nominate a person to fill the vacancy. The nomination is referred to the United States Senate, where the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing where the nominee provides testimony and responds to questions from members of the panel. Traditionally, the Committee refers the nomination to the full Senate for consideration.