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69 A.B.A. J. 40 (1983)
Public Information at the United States Supreme Court

handle is hein.journals/abaj69 and id is 40 raw text is: By Barrett McGurn
THE Washington Post once called the
Supreme Court the most secret and least
investigated governmental institution in
Washington, but exactly the opposite
thesis can be defended: that the Court is
the most open of all Washington's gov-
ernmental institutions. In effect, it oper-
ates in a goldfish bowl.
The Supreme Court receives about
5,000 new cases a year. Half of these are
pauper cases, many of them from prison-
ers seizing the chance that a fortuitous
intervention might restore them to free-
dom. The other half are paid cases, in
which there are printed briefs. The Court
requests 40 copies of each brief, and the
Public Information Office receives three

of those. One set is placed on open
shelves where any interested member of
the news media and public may consult
them. One set goes to the Associated
Press, which has two reporters on duty
at the Court every work day. The third
goes to United Press International,
which matches the A.P. man for man,
or, more precisely, person for person,
since U.PI. for decades has included
women reporters on its court staff.
The three sets are in the Public Infor-
mation Office and with the A.P. and
U.P.I. for about a year, until the Court
has disposed of each case. After that the
clerk of the Court recaptures and for-
wards them to legal depository libraries
across the country. Some of these li-
braries have all Supreme Court briefs
back to 1830.

Public Information
at the
United States
Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the
most open of Washington's
governmental institutions. In
effect, it operates in a
fishbowl. But some
improvements might be
considered to help reporters
understand a mass of
material under deadline

Thus the reporters. through one set of
briefs or another, are privy to every
argument litigants have presented to the
Court in some 2,500 cases each year.
The pauper cases may come in a single
copy in a handwritten scrawl. They are
held in a file room in the Court, but any
interested reporter is free to examine the
documentation in pauper cases by visit-
ing the file room.
Up to this point, there is total disclo-
. When the Court decides the cases it
will hear and those it will turn away,
which is done at a Friday conference
during most of the term but in a Thurs-
day conference in the final hectic weeks,
on the following Monday an order list is
released from the bench making these
decisions a matter of open public record.
When cases are argued, about 150 a

40    American Bar Association Journal

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