SCHS: Educational Resources — Rosette Detail

How The Court Works — The Court’s Workload and Staff

More than 500 people work regularly in the Supreme Court building. Among them are the principal officers appointed by the Court to ensure the proper execution of its complex statutory duties: the Clerk, the Reporter of Decisions, the Librarian and the Marshal.

For all judicial matters, the Clerk, Scott H. Harris, and his staff of 31 are the link between the Justices and the legal world. They handle a rising flow of paperwork, preparing the Court’s calendar as they check, record, and sort the incoming cases for presentation.

In 1941-42 the Court had 1,302 docketed cases; by the end of the 2015 Term, the annual inflow was over 6,475 cases. During the 2015 Term only 81 were taken for oral argument. In 1975 the Clerk’s records were computerized, but every motion and thousands of briefs must still be processed by hand.

To deal with this almost fivefold increase in work and to prevent enormous backlogs, the Court has increased staff size and productivity to a point many consider the limit. When William H. Rehnquist, was Chief Justice, he talked with repugnance of the possibility that any case might receive “anything less than the best attention from any one of the nine.”