When President Obama was inaugurated on Monday, the person who gave the oath, or promise, is the chief justice (or judge in charge) of the United States. This year, as at President Obama’s first inauguration, that was Chief Justice John Roberts. Justice Sonia Sotomayor swore in Vice President Joe Biden.

This week, the Mini Page learns more about the Supreme Court and what a justice does.

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the United States’ highest court. The justices must decide how laws are followed and whether our laws agree with the U.S. Constitution. This is called judicial (joo-DISH-uhl) review.

In the United States, the Supreme Court is an appellate court. This means that the court decides cases that are being appealed after making their way through the lower courts.

For example, in the mid-1960s, two high school students in Des Moines, Iowa, wore black armbands to school to protest against the Vietnam War. School officials suspended them.

The students and their families sued, or took legal action against the school district. They believed the First Amendment, which promises the right to free speech, protected their protest.

The case was presented in the U.S. District Court, where the verdict, or decision, agreed with the school. The case eventually went to the Supreme Court, which overturned, or changed, the verdict.

Our highest court

The justices work at the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C. The building was finished in 1935.

Before moving to this building, the Supreme Court met in the Capitol.

The building has one large courtroom, offices for each of the justices, a court library and offices for other workers. It also has a dining room and a gym.

The seated figures on either side of the steps are titled “The Contemplation of Justice” and “The Authority of Law.”