By Abby Gross

The nine justices (judges) of the United States Supreme Court decide cases that relate directly to the U.S. Constitution, and cases that affect the future for many people. It’s a very important job. To become a Supreme Court Justice, a person must be nominated by the president and then confirmed by the Senate. Once a judge becomes a Supreme Court Justice, he or she holds the position for life.

In 2005, Chief Justice William Rehnquist died and Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired. There were two spots to fill in a short amount of time. First, President Bush appointed Judge John Roberts. Judge Roberts grew up in Indiana and had worked for President Reagan in the 1980s, where critics say he attempted to limit civil rights, voting rights and women’s rights. In the Senate hearings, Roberts said that he would respect “precedent,” which means he will use past cases to help him decide how to rule on future cases.

Roberts was sworn in as Chief Justice in September 2005. At age 50, he is the youngest Justice. Bush also nominated Judge Samuel Alito, a Trenton, New Jersey native who has worked for the U.S. and New Jersey governments for almost 30 years. He is considered “right wing” because many of his opinions agree with the Republican party, and many people worry that his views on many issues, such as privacy rights, presidential power and environmental policy, will sway the court in an ultra-conservative direction. Judge Alito was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice in January 2006.