Writing a supreme court opinion

Biography of authors The Supreme Court's operations are conducted behind the velvet curtains in its courtroom. Its activities are visible to the public in three distinct phases of the deliberation on a case: Most of the Court's decision making between oral argument and the announcement of the final decision transpires out of public view. In the days following oral argument, the Justices meet in conference to discuss the cases that were recently argued.

Writing a supreme court opinion

Currently, there are nine Justices on the Court. Before taking office, each Justice must be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

Justices hold office during good behavior, typically, for life. The Constitution states that the Supreme Court has both original and appellate jurisdiction.

Original jurisdiction means that the Supreme Court is the first, and only, Court to hear a case. The Constitution limits original jurisdiction cases to those involving disputes between the writing a supreme court opinion or disputes arising among ambassadors and other high-ranking ministers.

Appellate jurisdiction means that the Court has the authority to review the decisions of lower courts. Most of the cases the Supreme Court hears are appeals from lower courts.

Writs of Certiorari Parties who are not satisfied with the decision of a lower court must petition the U. Supreme Court to hear their case.


The primary means to petition the court for review is to ask it to grant a writ of certiorari. This is a request that the Supreme Court order a lower court to send up the record of the case for review. In fact, the Court accepts of the more than 7, cases that it is asked to review each year.

Typically, the Court hears cases that have been decided in either an appropriate U. Court of Appeals or the highest Court in a given state if the state court decided a Constitutional issue. The Supreme Court has its own set of rules.

According to these rules, four of the nine Justices must vote to accept a case. Five of the nine Justices must vote in order to grant a stay, e.

Writs of Certiorari

Under certain instances, one Justice may grant a stay pending review by the entire Court. Law Clerks Each Justice is permitted to have between three and four law clerks per Court term. These are individuals who, fairly recently, graduated from law school, typically, at the top of their class from the best schools.

Often, they have served a year or more as a law clerk for a federal judge. Among other things, they do legal research that assists Justices in deciding what cases to accept; help to prepare questions that the Justice may ask during oral arguments; and assist with the drafting of opinions.

Concurring Opinion Writing on the U.S. Supreme Court

The participating Justices divide their petitions among their law clerks. The law clerks, in turn, read the petitions assigned to them, write a brief memorandum about the case, and make a recommendation as to whether the case should be accepted or not.

The Justice provides these memoranda and recommendations to the other Justices at a Justices' Conference. Briefs If the Justices decide to accept a case grant a petition for certiorarithe case is placed on the docket.

After the petitioner's brief has been filed, the other party, known as the respondent, is given a certain amount of time to file a respondent's brief. This brief is also not to exceed 50 pages. After the initial petitions have been filed, the petitioner and respondent are permitted to file briefs of a shorter length that respond to the other party's respective position.

writing a supreme court opinion

If not directly involved in the case, the U. Government, represented by the Solicitor General, can file a brief on behalf of the government.

The Supreme Court Opinion Writing Database

With the permission of the Court, groups that do not have a direct stake in the outcome of the case, but are nevertheless interested in it, may file what is known as an amicus curiae Latin for "friend of the court" brief providing their own arguments and recommendations for how the case should be decided.

Oral Arguments By law, the U. Supreme Court's term begins on the first Monday in October and goes through the Sunday before the first Monday in October of the following year.

The Court hears oral arguments in cases from October through April. From October through December, arguments are heard during the first two weeks of each month.Sorcerers’ Apprentices, a book on the influence of Supreme Court clerks, found that about 30 percent of the opinions issued by the Supreme Court are almost entirely the work of law clerks, with clerks responsible for the majority of the court’s output.

Jul 31,  · In twelve years on the bench, eleven of his opinions have been adopted by the Supreme Court.

writing a supreme court opinion

Asking whether or not a judge can write well may . (Slip Opinion) OCTOBER TERM, 1 Syllabus NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued. The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.

After two weeks of oral argument, the Court breaks from that routine to work on writing opinions. To this end, at the end of each oral argument period, the Chief Justice circulates an assignment sheet, which lists the cases for which each Justice is tasked with writing the majority opinion for the Court.

When Justices do not agree with the majority opinion, they may express their opposition by writing “dissenting opinions.”As well, Justices frequently write “concurring opinions” that clarify their reasons for joining the majority (What Is the US Supreme Court?

). 1. Identify the parts Typically, a U.S. Supreme Court opinion is comprised of one or more, or all, of the following parts: Syllabus The syllabus appears first, before the main opinion.

It is not part of the official opinion, but rather, a summary added by the Court to help .

The Supreme Court Opinion Writing Database