For more than two centuries, the Supreme Court has exerted extraordinary influence over the way we Americans live our daily lives. The Court has defined the limits of our speech and actions since its first meeting in 1790, adding to our history books names such as John Marshall, Louis Brandeis, Hugo Black, Earl Warren, Thurgood Marshall, Warren Burger, William Rehnquist, and many others.
The Judiciary in general and the Supreme Court of the United States in particular represent the republic's most unusual and least understood branch of government. Unlike the elected executive and legislative branches, the justices of the Supreme Court are appointed and serve during good behavior. Therefore they enjoy a degree of independence from the direct winds of politics that truly sets them apart. Moreover, while the cases before them are always heard in public, they are always decided in private - in conferences that the justices alone attend. What goes on both in open court and behind closed doors?