SCOTUSblog For Court Nerds

For those of us who follow the U.S. Supreme Court, SCOTUSblog is a well-worn icon on the favorites menu. SCOTUSblog is the preeminent news service solely dedicated to coverage of the Supreme Court. Lyle Denniston regularly posts insightful analyses of the latest legal news. Readers can also review lists of petitions the editorial staff believe merit special attention. I also like to monitor relisted petitions at contributor John Elwood’s comprehensive—and very funny—regular column.

SCOTUSblog is also a valuable portal into the minute-to-minute activities of the Court. On Opinion Days, the site hosts a live web blog to review and analyze the Court’s freshly-issued opinions. The staff will also post transcripts of oral argument soon after release by the Court.

And SCOTUSblog has become the unofficial curator of recent Supreme Court history. The site offers an ongoing series of video interviews with today’s leading legal figures (like this recent session with Lawrence Tribe). Readers can find up-to-date statistics for the Term, or take an even deeper plunge into the Court’s numbers with the Stat Pack. My favorite regular features are the SCOTUSblog symposia, where the staff invites scholars and practitioners from across the ideological range to exchange essays exploring some of the larger controversies working through the Court.

SCOTUSblog For Court Newbies

Very often we hear from customers drafting their first ever Supreme Court petition, and many of these new filers—attorneys and pro se filers—ask to see samples of petitions to help get a sense of the best way to present their cases. (And many other first-timers really ought to look at examples, even if they don’t know they should.)

lureThe Supreme Court Rules can be difficult to fully understand for the new filer, and even if the petitioner completely understands the required elements of a Supreme Court petition, the Rules do not offer a true sense of what makes an effective petition.

But a click to SCOTUSblog can give a first-time petitioner a significant advantage.

SCOTUSblog maintains an ongoing chronicle of past and present merits cases. From this list, the reader can jump to individual pages that summarize each case. A SCOTUSblog merits-case page includes the Question Presented by the petition, basic information like the filing date, and links to SCOTUSblog coverage of the case. The page also lists the docket entries in the case, with links to most of the filed documents, including the petition.

Think about it: petitions filed in cases that eventually make it onto a SCOTUSblog merits-case page are, by definition, winning petitions. So in a single source, a Supreme Court petitioner can access and review dozens of successful petitions. And with a little research—perhaps a survey of the Questions Presented listed at the top of each merits-case page—the petitioner can find petitions that present similar issues to those in his case.

Not sure if you should include a short factual introduction to your Questions Presented? Having difficulty finding the right level of detail for your Statement of the Case? How many of those precious 9,000 words should you dedicate to a review of the circuit split on the issue? Of course, there are no absolutely right answers to questions like these, but a review of recent successful petitions will help the drafter get a sense of the detail and tone that has had a positive response from the sitting Justices and their clerks. The SCOTUSblog merits-case pages are an invaluable resource to improve the odds of getting the writ.