Staff of the Court

The staff, other than the justices, employed by the Supreme Court to oversee day-to-day operations of the Court.

The Supreme Court’s staff of nonjudicial employees is one of the smallest staffs in the government. The chief justice is responsible for hiring and firing all employees; however, each justice selects a personal staff. The Court has five nonjudicial, statutory offices: administrative assistant, clerk, marshal, librarian, and reporter of decisions.

The office of administrative assistant,Administrative assistant to chief justice created in 1972, reports directly to the chief justice. The administrative assistant coordinates personnel policies, prepares the annual Court budget, and provides research to support statements and addresses made by the chief justice. The administrative assistant also issues documents that describe improvements in judicial administration, organizes conferences to discuss these improvements, and helps the public to better understand the work of the federal judiciary system.

The clerk of the CourtClerk of the Court, an office established in 1790, functions in the same manner as the clerk’s office in lower courts, including accepting filings and docketing motions. The clerk also distributes to each justice copies of the more than five thousand cases filed each term for consideration by the Court. After decisions have been rendered by the Court, the clerk prepares the Court’s Orders List and Journal, which contains all formal judgments and mandates of the Court. Attorneys arguing before the Court are required to be members of the Supreme Court bar, which is overseen by the clerk, who, on occasion, may swear in new members.

The marshalMarshal of the Court is responsible for the financial affairs of the Court. In addition to purchasing all supplies used by the Court and its staff, both judicial and nonjudicial, the marshal pays all bills and salaries as well as supervising the police, labor, and housekeeping staffs of the Court. Security for justices at functions held outside the Supreme Court building also falls under the office’s jurisdiction. The marshal is most visible when making the announcement that opens and closes each Court session. The office was created in 1867.

The librarian has responsibility for procuring books and periodicals and maintaining the large Supreme Court library, including overseeing the staff of expert legal researchers available for use by the justices. The position was created in 1887.

In 1790 Alexander J. Dallas began writing up court decisions as a public service. The position of reporterReporters, Supreme Court of decisions remained voluntary until 1816, when Congress formally established the position and voted a salary. The reporter is the only person, other than the justices, to see a decision before it is announced to the public. The reporter serves as editor of these decisions, checking for typographical mistakes and any errors in citations in previous and/or lower court rulings. The reporter sends the bench opinions, printed copies of decisions that are handed out after a decision is made public, to the Government Printing Office, which publishes and distributes the decisions as United States Reports. Approximately five volumes are published each Court term.

Each justice chooses a personal staff, including two secretaries, a personal messenger, and up to four law clerks. Law clerks,Clerks of the justices who serve a one-year term, are new lawyers with at least one year’s experience as clerks for a state or federal judge. They usually are the top graduates from the most prestigious law schools in the United States. Work duties depend on the justice for whom a clerk works but often include the initial writing of opinions to be edited later by the justice, or the editing of an opinion that was first drafted by the justice. Law clerks may read through new cases and prepare a memorandum summarizing each case for the justice’s consideration. Because of the volume of new cases, the clerks of several justices may pool their preparation of case memoranda, to avoid duplication of efforts. Law clerks were first hired in 1882.

Supporting Departments

In addition to the statutory offices and the personal staff of the justices, the Court depends on a number of supporting departments for its smooth operation. The public information officePublic information office, created in 1935, provides general information about the court and its justices to the public, as well as maintaining press rooms and broadcast booths for use of the news media. The public information office never comments on opinions or offers interpretation of any court decisions or opinions. The data systems office, created in 1985, provides technical support and electronic typesetting and supervised a pilot project to electronically distribute opinions.

The office of legal counsel,Legal counsel, office of established in 1973, is the Court’s lawyer. It serves the Court in matters dealing with its employees and property and may represent a court employee if that employee is sued in an official capacity. The office of the curator, created in 1973, presents exhibits and educational programs and works with the Supreme Court Historical Society, founded in 1975, to add to the Court’s collection of antiques and memorabilia.

Finally, the Court could not operate without the services of telephone operators, woodworkers, first-aid staffers, a barber, and a seamstress who help maintain the smooth operation of the Court, its property, and all its employees.

Further Reading

  • Baum, Lawrence. The Supreme Court. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 1995.
  • Wagman, Robert J. The Supreme Court: A Citizen’s Guide. New York: Pharos Books, 1993.
  • Witt, Elder. Congressional Quarterly’s Guide to the U.S. Supreme Court. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 1990.
  • _______, ed. The Supreme Court A to Z. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 1993.

Administrative assistant to chief justice

Clerk of the Court


Dallas, Alexander J.

Legal counsel, office of

Marshal of the Court

Public information office

Reporters, Supreme Court