Thursday, September 5, 2013

Supreme Court Resources


I just completed a display at the Law School having to do with an upcoming case from Massachusetts heading to the United States Supreme Court, McCullen v. Coakley, Docket No. 12-1168. In completing the display I had an opportunity to review some of my favorite Supreme Court resources that I hadn’t visited in a while and thought it might be fun to remind everyone about just what is available at two of them. 

For example, you already know that SCOTUSblog (started by husband and wife team Tom Goldstein and Amy Howe in 2002) has excellent Supreme Court coverage, generally reporting on every merits case before the Court three (or more) times: prior to argument; after argument; and after the decision. But did you also know that it now conducts symposiums on important Supreme Court cases?  In a recent symposium exploring April’s Kiobel v. Dutch Petroleum, lawyers, many of whom participated in the litigation, posted post-mortems on the meaning of Kiobel going forward.  And in addition to being a convenient source for all briefs filed in a matter before the Supreme Court, did you know SCOTUSblog has an interesting collection of videos, including one where Justice Sandra Day O’Connor reveals her secret Supreme Court handshake? There’s also a post on Supreme Court procedure that outlines the various stages a case takes on its journey to the Supreme Court, which is informative – did you know that merits briefs have a fifteen thousand word limit?  One last item I will mention about SCOTUSblog is its very popular StatPack, which slices and dices the performance of the Court in many ways. 

Oyez Oyez has been involved with Supreme Court recordings since the 1980s and defines its mission as aiming “to be a complete and authoritative source for all audio recorded in the Court since the installation of a recording system in October 1955.” This archive will not only be public but searchable. When one considers all the different recording platforms that have existed since 1955, one gets an idea of the size of this task – herculean. At present Oyez makes available recordings from the 1968 Term to the 2010 Term. Although the National Archives has the deepest collection of Supreme Court tapes, much of that collection is not publicly accessible due to problematic discrepancies in formats and recording techniques. Oyez is working to dub the original reel-to-reel tapes to a standard digital archiving format, thereby making previously inaccessible recordings available.

I also find Oyez’s information on Supreme Court Justices to be unique in that the web bios include links to cases argued by the Justices before the Supreme Court in their earlier careers, with accompanying audio. Fascinating. Oyez reports voting details for every Supreme Court case back to 1953, including a visual depiction of each member that sat on the Court for that decision. The researcher can organize the votes on a particular case by ideology, seniority, and voting coalition. 

Finally, for the app-conscious, check out Oyez’s PocketJustice, which focuses on the Supreme Court’s constitutional jurisprudence.

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