The CockleBur Blog



“Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” – Mark Twain.

From the installation of a frozen-yogurt machine to verified KKK membership, the history of the United States Supreme Court and its Justices is filled with fascinating facts.

Curriculum Vitae:

  • Excluding Senate confirmation, there are no formal requirements for becoming a Supreme Court Justice.
  • 57%, or 64 out of 112 Justices, never earned a Juris Doctorate degree.
  • Harvard has produced more Justices (15) then the next three schools combined (Yale, Columbia, and Samford (no, not Stanford. Samford)).
  • Today’s Court is comprised entirely of Ivy League graduates: 5 enrolled at Harvard, three attended Yale, and one graduated from Columbia.
  • William Howard Taft is the only person to have served as both President of the United States and Chief Justice of the Court.

Age is Just a Number:

  • The youngest Chief Justice ever appointed was 44 year-old John Jay.  The youngest Associate Justice ever appointed was 32 year-old Joseph Story.
  • The oldest individual to serve was Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who was 90 years-old when he retired from the Court.


  • There have been 112 Justices in the history of the Supreme Court.
  • Justices have served a term of 16 years on average.
  • Chief Justice John Marshal was the longest serving Chief at 34 years, 5 months, and 11 days, while Associate Justice William Douglas has the longest term in Court history at 36 years, 7 months, and 8 days.


  • Justice Hugo Black was a member of the KKK, though he later joined the Court’s majority in Brown v. Board, holding segregation in public schools unconstitutional.
  • Justice Ginsberg beat cancer twice while not missing a day of work.
  • The Ten Commandments adorn the walls of the Supreme Court building.

An Exclusive Club:

  • Jimmy Carter is the only president to serve a full term without nominating a Supreme Court justice.
  • President George Washington appointed 11 Justices, more than any other president.
  • Justice Byron White is the only Justice to be elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.  He was also inducted in the NFL’s Hall of Fame.
  • First Catholic Justice: Roger B. Taney.
  • First Jewish Justice: Louis Brandeis.
  • First African-American Justice: Thurgood Marshall.
  • First Hispanic Justice: Sonia Sotomayor.
  • First female Justice: Sandra Day O’Connor.


  • Justice Elena Kagan is responsible for the installation of the first frozen-yogurt machine in the Supreme Court cafeteria.
  • The top floor of the Supreme Court building houses a gym, which includes a basketball court dubbed “the highest court in the land.”
  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was 1 of 9 women in her 1956 graduating class at Harvard.
  • Traditionally, 20 white quill pens are placed at counsel’s tables each day while the Court is in session. After oral argument, attorneys are encouraged to keep the pens as souvenirs.

Facts obtained from the Supreme Court’s website, Oxford Univ. Press,, CNN,, The Daily Beast, The National Constitution Center, and


New Merits Brief Filed by Cockle Legal Briefs

Brief For Petitioner in Direct Mktg. Ass’n v. Brohl, No. 13-1032, filed on September 9, 2014

New Petitions Recently Filed by Cockle Legal Briefs

Montgomery v. Louisiana, filed on September 5, 2014

Bower v. Texas, filed on September 9, 2014

Verkerk v. North Carolina, filed on September 10, 2014

Acceptance Cas. Ins. Co. v. Great West Cas. Co., filed on September 10, 2014

New Petition Recently Filed By Cockle Legal Briefs

Meade v. U.S., filed August 18, 2014.

U.S. Supreme Court Merits-Stage Procedure, Part II: Document Filing

The decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court not only shape the law of the nation, but can often adjust the weave of our social fabric. To help the justices meet this weighty challenge, the Rules lay out a merits-stage process that offers sources beyond the arguments in the parties’ briefs, to provide information to the Court that is both comprehensive and concise.

docsThe Joint Appendix

The Joint Appendix is a compilation of materials from the record below. The JA is intended to be a useful guide for the justices as they consider the arguments in the case, and is not the sole reference source for the Court, which will have access to the entire record below. The parties are encouraged to confer on the content of the JA, but Rule 26.2 provides a document designation scheme if the parties are unable to agree. The petitioner is expected to pay the initial costs of preparing the JA—which, like all Supreme Court merits-stage filings, must be typeset to the Supreme Court’s exacting format—but Rule 26.3 requires the respondent to advance costs for documents that the petitioner deems unnecessary, and further, generally provides that the JA expenses are a taxable cost at the conclusion of the case. The Court can also assign JA costs as it deems appropriate. The parties might defer filing of the JA, or even be excused entirely, upon a granted motion to the Court. The cover is tan, includes both the petitioner’s and the respondent’s signature blocks, and indicates the date the petitioner filed the Petition, as well as the date the Court granted the writ.

The JA should be filed with the Petitioner’s Brief, 45 days after the Court grants the writ, however the petitioner can ask the Court for an extension of time.

Amicus Briefs

Amici can file briefs supporting either party, or neither party (an amicus supporting neither party will have the same filing deadline and cover color as an amicus supporting the petitioner). Amicus briefs are due seven days after the party being supported files its principal brief. Important note for Supreme Court merits-stage parties: litigants should avoid filing a party’s principle brief before the due date; amici in support will have scheduled their filing date for seven days after the party’s due date, and may not be able to meet a shortened filing period. Briefs supporting the petitioner are clad in a light green cover, and briefs supporting the respondent are in dark green. Supreme Court merits-stage amicus briefs are limited to 9,000 words.

The Supreme Court Merits Rule

While the U.S. Supreme Court only allows filing by paper document, all filers at the merits stage must send the Clerk a text-searchable PDF copy of the brief on the day of filing. The Court’s memo detailing the Supreme Court Merits Rule provides a specific naming convention for the PDF file, depending on the identity of the filer. The filer must send a copy to every party’s counsel of record, but this does not replace the paper service requirement. Filers are not required to serve amici who have filed in the case, but if the Solicitor General has filed an amicus brief on behalf of the government, we recommend sending the SG a courtesy copy.

With over 90 years of brief filing experience, Cockle Legal Briefs can help you navigate both the written and unwritten rules of Supreme Court merits-stage practice. Give us call to schedule your next Supreme Court filing.

New Petitions Recently Filed by Cockle Legal Briefs

Keele v. U.S., filed on August 29, 2014

Sarno v. U.S., filed on September 2, 2014

Reorganized Supreme Court Clerk’s Office

With the September 1st retirement of longtime Chief Deputy Clerk Chris Vasil, the U.S. Supreme Court has restructured its senior staff.

The position occupied by Mr. Vasil since 2002 has been abolished, and in its stead, four Deputy Clerks will continue to assist Supreme Court filers in the following capacities:

washington-supreme-court-building-washington-d-c-dc169Practice and Procedure: Jordan “Danny” Bickell, formally the Court’s Emergency Applications Clerk, has been appointed Deputy Clerk for Practice and Procedure.  He will carry out some of Mr. Vasil’s previous duties, including “the preparation of weekly conference lists, taking action on extensions of time to respond to petitions for writs of certiorari, and service as the primary point of contact for members of the Court’s bar with respect to questions of practice and procedure,” according to the Court’s announcement, available here.

Mr. Bickell will continue to perform the duties of the Emergency Applications Clerk until the Court fills the temporary vacancy.  The New York Times profiled Mr. Bickell, here.

Case Management: Cynthia Rapp will continue to serve as Deputy Clerk for Case Management.  She is an invaluable resource for original action proceedings.

Administration: Gary Kemp will continue to serve as Deputy Clerk for Administration.  He is responsible for many of the Court’s administrative functions.

Case Initiation: Jeff Atkins, formerly the Supervisor of New Cases, will now serve as Deputy Clerk for Case Initiation – though many of his job functions remain the same.  Mr. Atkins will supervise the seven case analysts who review and process new case filings.

So Sue Me! (Again): The Stages of Original Litigation at the Supreme Court

Original Actions may proceed through three distinct stages before final resolution.  The first is similar to the “petition stage” of a cert petition and the last is similar to the “merits stage.”  The second, “interim” stage, is unique.

  • Stage 1 is commenced by filing the Complaint.

The Complaint must be preceded by a Motion For Leave To File and may be accompanied by a Brief In Support of the motion.  The combined word limit for the motion and brief is 9,000 words.  There is no word limit for the complaint itself.

An Appendix is optional and has no required documents or order of documents, unlike the requirements for a cert petition.  There can also be more than one appendix — one for the motion and another for the brief.

The defendant may file a Brief in Opposition, limited to 9,000 words.  Reply and/or Supplemental Briefs, limited to 3,000 words, may also be filed.  Due dates are based on the briefing schedule noted on the docket.

Amicus briefs filed at this stage follow the same requirements as filing at the cert petition stage.  Word limit is 6,000 words.  Consent from the parties or a Motion  is required (unless the Amicus is a governmental entity).  The 10-day notice to parties is also required. Amicus briefs are due at the same time as the Brief in Opposition.

After all filing deadlines have expired, the briefs will be distributed for conference, following the Court’s customary procedure.  A decision whether to grant the Motion For Leave To File is usually announced on the next Orders List.

  • Stage 2 is commenced after the Court grants the Motion For Leave To File.

sealThis stage has no parallel to the cert petition process, except for requiring the booklet format.

Party filings at this stage have no word limit.  Filings may include motions, briefs, or responses to motions.  Recent examples are:  Motion to Dismiss, Motion to Intervene, Brief in Response to Motion to Intervene, Reply Brief.

Amicus briefs are allowed at this stage — even from Amici who filed at the earlier stage.  Amici should still follow cert petition stage requirements, although the word limit can now go to 7,500 words.

Due dates are based on the briefing schedule noted on the docket.

The original action interim stage lasts as long as needed for each case.  There can be multiple rounds of filings, and one or more distribution dates and conferences.  At some point, the Court may appoint a Special Master to step in.

The Special Master has the “authority to fix the pleadings and to direct subsequent proceedings [including the] authority to summon witnesses, issue subpoenas, and take such evidence as may be introduced and … as … may [be deemed] necessary to call for….”  Costs for the Special Master are taxed to the parties per order of the Court.

The Special Master will file one or more Reports with the Court; there is no due date.  In addition to being filed, the Report is also served on the parties.

  • Stage 3 is commenced after the Special Master’s Report is filed.

This is the merits stage in an Original Action.

Parties may file Exceptions To The Report Of The Special Master, along with a Brief In Support (customary but not required).  The word limit for the brief is 15,000 words.  There is no word limit for the exceptions themselves.

An Appendix (attached to the brief) is optional.  Unlike the merits stage of a cert filing, there is no Joint Appendix.

Reply and Sur-Reply Briefs may be filed pursuant to the briefing schedule on the docket.

Amicus briefs filed at this stage follow the same requirements as filing at the cert merits stage.  Consent from the parties or a Motion  is required (unless the Amicus is a governmental entity).  The word limit is 9,000 words.

Due dates are based on the briefing schedule noted on the docket.  Briefs are filed and served on the parties.  The Merits Rule regarding electronic filing/service applies to briefs at this stage.  Parties do not serve the Special Master.

The Court will schedule oral argument on the Exceptions and, later, issue its ruling.  However, this by no means guarantees that the case is over.  Stay tuned for a discussion of what can happen next.

For an in-depth look at Original Action litigation read our previous post, here.

New Petition Recently Filed by Cockle Legal Briefs

Brown v. U.S., filed on August 26, 2014

Today in Supreme Court History: The Legacy of Gideon v. Wainwright

balance-875413-mOn this date in 1961 Clarence Gideon was sentenced to five years in a Florida state prison.  What he did next forever changed the American legal system.

Clarence Gideon was a simple man with humble beginnings in Hannibal, Missouri.  His father died when he was only three years old.  He ran away from home after the eighth grade, living as a homeless drifter.  As a teenager, he spent a few years in a reformatory only to be released into the Great Depression.  After marrying and eventually settling in Florida, Gideon was arrested on felony theft charges on June 3, 1961.

Not able to afford an attorney, Gideon had no choice but to represent himself during his trial.

THE COURT:  “Why do you not have counsel?  Did you not know your case was set for trial today?”

GIDEON:  “Yes, sir, I knew that it was set for trial today.”

THE COURT:  “Why, then, did you not secure counsel and be prepared to go to trial?”

GIDEON:  “Your Honor … I request this Court to appoint Counsel to represent me in this trial.”

THE COURT:  “Mr. Gideon, I am sorry, but I cannot appoint Counsel to represent you in this case.  Under the laws of the State of Florida, the only time the Court can appoint Counsel to represent a Defendant is when that person is charged with a capital offense.  I am sorry, but I will have to deny your request to appoint Counsel to defend you in this case.”

Gideon was found guilty and given the maximum sentence, five years in prison.  Soon after his arrival in prison, he filed a hand-written pro se petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court.  He argued that his Sixth Amendment right to Counsel had been violated.

The Court agreed to hear his petition in order to resolve the question of whether the right to counsel in the Sixth Amendment applies to defendants in state court.  The Court agreed with Gideon that he was entitled to an attorney to assist him with his defense, and reversed and remanded his case. In writing for the majority, Justice Black stated that “reason and reflection require us to recognize that in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided for him.”  Gideon’s case was reheard.  With the assistance of an attorney who discredited the eyewitness testimony, Gideon was acquitted.

The legacy of Gideon v. Wainwright is apparent every day in courtrooms all over the country.  After the 1963 holding in Gideon, public defender offices were created to make the right to an attorney available to most people charged with crimes who could not afford an attorney to represent them.  Not only do public defenders provide a basic legal defense, they also recognize the role that substance abuse and mental illness play in the commission of crimes, making appropriate referrals for their clients where necessary.  It is hard to imagine our criminal justice system if Clarence Gideon and his Supreme Court appeal never came along.


Articles posted in the Cockle Blog are for informational purposes only. Nothing in the Cockle Blog should be taken for legal advice. In fact, Cockle Blog articles are not a substitute for proper legal research conducted by licensed attorneys.

Cockle Blog will occasionally provide opinions on certain cases and Court procedures. These opinions should be viewed with the recognition that no one can predict with certainty how the Supreme Court will rule on particular cases. Any reliance on articles contained in Cockle Blog must be done at one's own risk.