By Elise Spenner, FTC intern
For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court returned to in-person opinion announcements this year.
I happened to be in D.C. at the end of June, so I took the opportunity to visit the Court on a rainy Friday (June 23), which you can see from my photo, below right.
While I was in the courtroom, the justices released opinions in four cases: Samia v. United States, United States v. Texas, Coinbase, Inc. v. Bielski, and United States v. Hansen.
Here’s what I noticed during my time at the Court:
Around 50 people were let into the courtroom, with seating in the front reserved for the justices’ relatives and guests. Law clerks also occupied some of the seating in the courtroom.
Electronics are still prohibited, although lockers are now free for visitors to store their belongings (was previously $0.50, which was fine, but too often visitors forget to bring quarters and don’t want to waste time at the change machine).
If you do attend opinion announcements, make sure to bring a notebook and pen, as that’s about all you’ll be permitted to bring into the courtroom.
Eight of the nine justices were present to hand down opinions; Justice Neil Gorsuch was absent when I visited, but it’s not unusual for justices to miss an opinion announcement day if they didn’t write in any of the cases.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor is the only justice who is still wearing a mask while in the courtroom.
Each justice who wrote a majority opinion read from the syllabus and summarized the holding.
When I was there, no dissents were read from the bench. But that wasn’t shocking; traditionally, justices only read dissents in the most contentious cases of the term. For instance, this year we know dissents were read in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis.
Though this was a worthwhile experience, here’s to hoping that opinion announcements will be livestreamed, like oral arguments, in future terms.