Putzel, Henry, Jr. Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

During Putzel’s time as a court reporter, the Supreme Court began to prepare headnotes to cases before a decision was announced rather than after, partly because of the advent of electronic communications.

Putzel was graduated from Yale Law School in 1938. After World War II began in 1941, he held various positions in the federal government, including the Office of Price Administration, the Justice Department, and the Civil Rights Section of the Justice Department, where he was involved in school desegregation and other civil rights cases. In 1957 Putzel was appointed chief of the Civil Rights Section’s Voting and Elections Section when the section was created, and he was instrumental in many court victories in civil rights cases.

Assuming the post of reporter on February 17, 1964, Putzel edited or coedited the United States Reports volumes 376 through 440. During his tenure, the Court changed policy to prepare headnotes to cases before the announcement of a decision, rather than after. This important change in the reporting method marked the Court’s somewhat belated acknowledgment of improvements in reporting and citation methods occasioned by electronic communications. Putzel’s self-confessed obsessions with words and “nit-picking” served him well as editor of the Supreme Court’s official record, and he was credited with having performed his exacting task with great distinction. He retired in 1979.

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