Internal guidelines adopted by the Supreme Court that set forth its jurisdictional and procedural processes.
The Supreme Court has operated by an internal set of rules since the first rulebook was adopted on February 3, 1790. Rule 1 established a clerk of the Court, requiring this person to reside at the seat of government but restricting him or her from practicing law while serving the Court. The rule even forbade the clerk from taking the original record of the Court out of the courtroom or from the office without an order from the Court. The early rules reflected the colonial experience of using the British high courts as a model. Rule 7 says “the Court will follow the practice as stipulated by the Courts of King’s Bench, and of chancery, in England.” The Court originally had several rules concerning equity and admiralty cases, once a large portion of its docket.
The Court’s internal rules stipulate how appeals proceed, the swearing in of counsel to the Court bar, and even particulars of appendices to briefs and filing fees. Rules of procedure have been modified as the role of the institution in American life altered. Over time the rules of the Court changed to reflect the current content and volume of the docket.
The first one hundred years of the Court saw the justices deciding federal appeals at about the same rate. After the Civil War, the volume of appeals to the Court rose dramatically. Congress responded in 1891 and again in 1925 by allowing the Court to determine what cases it would review. Again in 1997 discretion was granted to the justices to set their docket, so much so that by the late 1990’s the Court had almost complete discretion over what cases it hears or denies by writ of certiorari.
One of the more notable rules, the rule of four
Other rules of the Court have changed over time, again reflecting the rising workload of the Court and its increased importance as a governmental institution. For example, the length of time allotted for oral arguments has changed dramatically. When the Court first began operating, the time for oral arguments
Changes in other rules such as the length of the Supreme Court’s term reflect the workload constraints on the justices. The timeliness of appeals, procedure for filing, the content of briefs, stipulations placed on the content of oral arguments as well as other rules have been altered over time in response to the volume of appeals and the importance of Court decisions in dispensing justice.
The rules of the Court reflect both statutes and custom in governing how the Court proceeds. They have contributed to the institutionalization of the Court and made its operation more efficient and effective.
Federal Criminal Code and Rules. St. Paul, Minn.: West Group Publishing, 2003. Frankfurter, Felix, and James Landis. The Business of the Supreme Court: A Study of the Federal Judicial System. New York: Macmillan, 1928. Hall, Timothy L., ed. The U.S. Legal System. 2 vols. Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2004. Savage, David G., ed. Guide to the United States Supreme Court. 4th ed. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 2004. Sterns, Robert L., and Eugene Gressman. Supreme Court Practice. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of National Affairs, 1969. United States Supreme Court. Rules of the Supreme Court of the United States. Washington, D.C.: Author, 1997.
Certiorari, writ of
Clerk of the Court
Dartmouth College v. Woodward
First Monday in October
Judiciary Acts of 1801-1925
McCulloch v. Maryland
Opinions, writing of