1950 3¢ Supreme Court Building
National Capital Sesquicentennial Issue
Issue Date: August 2, 1950
City: Washington, D.C.
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Rotary Press
Perforations: 10 ½ x 11
Color: Light violet
U.S. #991 is part of a four-stamp set to honor the 150th anniversary of the nation’s capital. The stamp pictures the U.S. Supreme Court Building to illustrate the Judicial branch of government. The building was completed in 1935. Before then, the Supreme Court met in various parts of the U.S. Capitol building.
The powers and responsibilities of the Supreme Court are established in the U.S. Constitution. It is the highest court in the judicial branch of the federal government. The Supreme Court is the only court established by the Constitution. It has narrow original jurisdiction that is largely limited to cases involving ambassadors, public ministers, and states. Following the landmark 1803 Marbury v. Madison decision, the majority of its caseload involves appeals.
Congress determines the number of justices that sit on the court. The number of justices began at six and grew as the nation expanded geographically. The President of the United States appoints justices, who are not required to have any specific qualifications. Each nominee must be confirmed by Congress.
To allow justices to make their decisions without political influence or fear of reprisal, each justice “shall hold their Offices during good Behavior,” and may only be removed from the bench by impeachment.
The Supreme Court had a limited function for its first few decades, and the justices often rode the circuit to hear cases. President John Adams appointed John Marshall to the Supreme Court in 1801. In 1803, the Supreme Court heard the case of Marbury v. Madison, which found that a Congressional Act was unconstitutional. The Marshall Court declared any act that was “repugnant” to the Constitution to be illegal. The finding firmly established the concept of “judicial review,” and made the Supreme Court an influential branch of the federal government.
Due to the power the court wields, Presidents are often eager to appoint justices that reflect their political ideology. To date, Jimmy Carter is the only President to serve a full term without the opportunity to appoint a member to the Supreme Court.
National Capital Sesquicentennial
A set of four U.S. stamps was issued in 1950 in honor of the 150th anniversary of the establishment of Washington, D.C., as the nation’s capital. The stamps portrayed the three branches of government (Executive, Judicial, Legislative), as well as the concepts of Liberty and Freedom.
The idea that the capital be a district that was not part of any state was first put forth by James Madison, in Essay No. 43 of the Federalist Papers. The Compromise of 1790 resulted in the federal government assuming the war debt of the individual states in return for the placement of the national capital in the South.
A provision in the U.S. Constitution allowed for an area like a square of 10-mile sides. The land was donated by both Maryland and Virginia. The City of Washington and the Territory of Columbia were originally two separate entities, but in 1801, both the territory and the city (as well as neighboring cities Georgetown and Alexandria) were placed under the direct control of Congress. The federal government officially moved into the District in 1800.