How The Court Works | Marshal's Aides

In another break with venerable practice, beginning in 1973 the system of choosing high school freshman as Court pages was gradually discontinued. Now there are Marshal’s aides, slightly older and sometimes chosen from the ranks of prelaw and night law school students.

While the Court is in session, the aides wait on small straight chairs behind the bench. They move swiftly to pass notes from Justices to others in the Court. They may disappear behind the red draperies to deliver a message, to fill a water glass at one of two fountains on the rear wall, or to obtain reference material from the library. They may have unusual errands, as Justice Harry A. Blackmun recalled from his first day on the bench--June 9, 1970:

"I had taken my seat and was examining things. I pulled open a drawer in the bench and found some cough drops. And a copy of the Constitution, stamped ‘O.W. Holmes’ and signed by Justice Frankfurter, a successor in this seat. The Marshal brought me a bible to sign—presented by the first Justice Harlan and signed by all the Justices since. Suddenly Byron White was leaning over to me, whispering. ‘Harry! Harry, where’s your spittoon?" He snapped a finger --softly—for a page. ‘Get the Justice his spittoon!’" (Today the spittoons serve as wastepaper baskets.)

Click Here for the next Chapter.

Return to the "How the Court Works"