By statute, the annual Term begins the first Monday in October. By custom, it ends when the year’s schedule of cases is finished. Spring brings the notorious end-of-Term crunch. Justice Brennan once took up a heated end-of-term disagreement with Justice Hugo L. Black, who said of the season: “This place can become like a pressure cooker and it can beat the strongest of men.” Even in summer, after the Justices have wound up the formal schedule, new petitions follow them at the rate of nearly 150 a week; motions such as those for stays of judgment must be dealt with; and appeals of national significance may bring the Court back into session.
In reality their duties never end, and during the 1978-79 term the Court reluctantly recognized that the recess had become a fiction and began letting each term run until the new one opened.