How The Court Works
Since 1970 journalists have received the syllabus, along with opinions, an invaluable aid especially for wire service and radio and television correspondents, who in the past often had to go through hundreds of pages of opinions in minutes or be late with their news flashes. At a more measured pace, the Reporter also supervises publication of United States Reports, the official record of the Court’s work.
News representatives are fully informed of what cases are brought before the Court and may consult all the records. They may obtain summaries of cases accepted for review well before they are heard; the summaries are prepared by law professors throughout the country. Reporters now hear decisions as they are announced from the Bench. Previously, a special telephone carried word to the Public Information Office to distribute the printed materials to reporters immediately after the decision was announced.
In the Public Information Office, reporters wait, swapping shop talk: “This time it’ll be at least six to three, maybe seven to two….” “That will put the whole thing back with Congress. . . .” “But there’s a difference between illegal aliens and legal immigrants . .” “I say it’s protected speech under the First Amendment….”
Public Information Officer Kathy Arberg distributes copies of the decisions when word comes of their announcement from the bench. Reporters scatter to phones or computer terminals, or prepare for a “stand-up” television report before a camera crew carefully positioned on the plaza to show the classic façade of the Court behind the speaker. Direct television coverage of official Court activities, so important to the White House and Capitol, is not permitted. Neither oral argument nor the reading of opinions are open to television cameras.