Supreme Court tells lawyers: Stand in line yourselves.

Daily News Article - October 15, 2015


1. Why do lawyers become members of the U.S. Supreme Court bar?

2. What are “line standers”?

3. a) What action did the court take on line standers when it opened its 2015-2016 session last week?
b) Why did the court take this action?
c) The court’s announcement did not change the rules for the public. Do you think the same rule should apply to the public line? Explain your answer.

4. a) According to Kannon Shanmugam, a lawyer who frequently argues before the court, “There are probably only two or three cases a year when there are line-sitters.” Why do you think this is so?
b) How many seats are available in the courtroom? Be specific.

5. If a lawyer does not get a seat in the lawyers section for oral arguments, how can he/she follow the proceedings?

6. The Washington Post article states that there are companies that supply a placeholder for lawyers who want to get into a Supreme Court oral argument (and also for lobbyists who want to get into a congressional hearing). Why is this wrong?

7. Re-read the paragraphs 12-15. Then read the excerpt below from a National Law Journal report:

Judith Schaeffer, acting president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, admits that she has used a line stander, but only once—for the same-sex marriage arguments.

“My reaction as a bar member is that the court really should take a step back and consider what has brought the court to this step,” she said. “To me, it’s a very simple fact that many Americans as well as bar members are deeply interested in proceedings of the court. There is a very simple solution—live audio or preferably live video.”

Schaeffer noted that live audio of arguments are broadcast into the court’s lawyers’ lounge. “There’s no legitimate reason for the court not to share that with the public,” she added. “It doesn’t require new technology or cameras—just somebody with authority to turn that switch on.”

What do you think of Gabe Roth and Judith Schaeffer’s suggestions? Is there a legitimate reason that the American public should not be able to listen to the court’s proceedings live the way lawyers are able to in the lawyer’s lounge in the Supreme Court building? Explain your answer.

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS: Read the “Background” information below the questions.

1. a) How many of the approximately 7,500 cases that are sent to the Supreme Court each year are chosen to be heard by the Justices?
b) Between what months will the court be in session?
c) How many of the 9 Justices must accept a case for it to come before the Supreme Court?

2. What must a case involve for it to be considered by the Supreme Court for review?