Associate Justice Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Associate Justice, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Associate Justice?

(n) Associate Justice are the members of US Supreme Court who are appointed by the President to assist the Chief Justice in execution of his duties. In US, eight members are appointed as Associate Justice. The period of their service is deemed to be until death, voluntary retirement or statutory impeachment.

History and Meaning of Associate Justice

Associate Justices are members of the US Supreme Court who are appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate. They are tasked with assisting the Chief Justice in the execution of their duties, which includes the interpretation of the US Constitution and federal laws. The position was established by the Judiciary Act of 1789, which also created the Supreme Court as the highest court in the federal judiciary.

While the Chief Justice presides over the Supreme Court and has certain administrative responsibilities, each Associate Justice is equal in terms of their authority to hear and decide cases. Historically, Associate Justices were not considered as significant as the Chief Justice, but over time their role has grown in importance, particularly as the Court has become more politically polarized.

Examples of Associate Justice

  1. Ruth Bader Ginsburg served as an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court from 1993 until her death in 2020.
  2. Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017 and has since become known for his conservative views and opinions.
  3. Sonia Sotomayor, a former federal judge, was appointed as an Associate Justice by President Barack Obama in 2009.
  4. Associate Justice Elena Kagan was appointed by President Obama in 2010 and previously served as the Solicitor General of the United States.
  5. Clarence Thomas is currently the longest-serving Associate Justice, having been appointed by President George H. W. Bush in 1991.

Legal Terms Similar to Associate Justice

  • Chief Justice: The presiding justice of the US Supreme Court.
  • Circuit Judge: A judge who sits on a US Court of Appeals.
  • District Judge: A judge who sits on a US District Court.
  • Magistrate Judge: A judge who assists in the adjudication of cases in a US District Court.
  • Justices: A broad term that can refer to any type of judge or justice, but is often specifically used to refer to the members of the US Supreme Court.