What Does a Supreme Court Justice Do All Day Long?

Court convenes in October, rulings handed down the next July or so.

Do they spend those nine months researching and debating the case amongst themselves? Writing the decisions? Is vacation time for them July-October or do they spend that time deciding what cases to hear the following session?

I believe they do spend July-October reviewing cases to see which ones should be argued before the full Court. Those that they pick out, I think need 4 votes to be heard before the Court.

July-October is reading briefs, reading the results of research by their clerks, discussion, and writing opinions.


They spend their time figuring out which cases have a legal “hook”, i.e. something that catches their attention as a critical legal principle, for which they will grant cert; as opposed to the cases that they want to blow off. So, hookers and blow.

Well, of course they’ve got a small army of clerks and minions doing their research for them, as well as - I imagine - reviewing cert petitions. I see no reason to believe it is 8 hrs a day, 5 days a week of heavy labor.

Lots of responsibility, sure. But as for the day-to-day requirements, impresses me as a pretty sweet gig.

You ever try to read legal briefs all day? :eek:

That’s actually what Dinsdale’s job is. :wink:

A recently retired judge of the Supreme Court of Canada said his average work week was 80 hours.

Hence the robes.

In case you’re wondering, the average US SCJ makes $214K a year, and the Chief Justice make $10K more than that, but even with all the staff there’s still a lot of work that has to get done. I imagine there are quite a few perks to the job, and the benefits are pretty good.

It also gives them a public profile that can be pretty valuable. Sonia Sotomayor earned at least $2 million from her book.

They spend a lot of time reading.


Of course there have been justices like Thurgood Marshall who liked nothing more than spend hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours telling stories. Apparently his clerks wrote all of his opinions the last five years he was on the court.

And of course there’s always “movie day” when the justices review the pornos movies/videos/photos and other exhibits that tend to crop up in first amendment cases.

As Potter Stewart’s clerks were quoted, in The Brethren, during Movie Day: “I see it! I see it!”

Funnily enough, this article about Justice Stewart & obscenity is indeed titled “Movie Day at the Supreme Court”.

Reading. Thinking deep thoughts. Discussing topics. Having pretty much EVERYBODY kiss your ass just about everywhere you go!

Not exactly pouring tar in the summertime! :cool:

Other cites mention $244K for Associate Justices.

Yeah, it’s an important job, and you have to be pretty smart (hopefully) but it’s not a hard job. You have me three or four full time clerks, and I could pretty easily bang out 10-15 opinions a year.

Another cushy job is U.S. Senator. Is there any other job where you actually don’t have to do anything and not get in hot water? The campaigning sucks, but the job itself is a breeze.

Retired Justice Souter was profoundly bored in his job. However he is a classic New England hermit, so the trappings of the job (i.e. ass kissed regularly, etc) were not to his liking. Yeah, a lot of reading and thought and the clerks do the dirty work, but after a few years it gets pretty routine. After that, you really are there for the trappings unless you desire to write books to keep your life interesting.

I highly recommend Woodward and Armstrong’s The Brethren (which covers from the late Sixties up through the late Seventies) and Toobin’s The Nine (from the Clinton years to the present day) for a look at what life is actually like for SCOTUS justices. Each book is an interesting mix of law, process, politics and gossip. And yes, they read and read and read and read. The deluge of paper, even in this electronic age, is staggering. Fun fact: hanging in the justices’ private dining room are portraits of both Marbury and Madison.