How The Court Works | Modernization and Technology

Proceedings in the Supreme Court have been moving at a brisker pace in recent years. Most lawyers are admitted in absentia to Court practice, releasing many hours in the Court’s schedule. The time allotted for oral argument has been cut from two hours to one. In most cases, only short summaries of opinions are read from the bench. These changes have saved one and a half days of Court time a week.

Until 1969 there was not even a photocopying machine at the Court; the junior Justice needed strong light and good glasses to work from a blurry eighth-carbon copy of a memorandum. Later in the decision-making process, the opinions, still in draft, were set by Linotype in the Court’s printing shop and distributed to the Justices. Redrafting and editing required laborious resetting of lines of lead type, readjustment of pages and footnotes, proofreading after proofreading.

Today the technical aspects of decision-making are fully automated, with substantial savings in time and effort. Each of the nine Justices has state of the art c0mputer access. Once a draft has reached the state where a Justice wants to make an opinion available to colleagues, it can be printed and sent to their chambers.

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