Joining the Bar of the U.S. Supreme Court
If you have ever dreamed of appearing before the U.S. Supreme Court but thought you
would never have the opportunity, think again. Being a member in good standing of The Florida Bar for a three-year period automatically entitles you to admission to the Bar of the U.S. Supreme Court. If you choose to be admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court Bar in person, the experience is thrilling and will last a lifetime.
Recently, a fellow attorney suggested that we join him as a member of the U.S. Supreme Court Bar and offered to sponsor us. We coordinated our schedules and agreed to meet in the nation’s Capitol on the third Monday in October. Arriving at the Supreme Court at 8:30 a.m., we were met by the administrative clerk of the Court who gave us detailed instructions for what was to follow. The attorney who motioned the Court for our admission was given a pre-printed motion to read to the entire Supreme Court, requesting that the Court admit us as members of the U.S. Supreme Court Bar. The instructions on the sheet clearly indicate that if he deviated from the speech in any way, Chief Justice Rehnquist may reserve ruling on the motion.
Upon passing through the metal detectors and abundant questioning by Court security, we were led into large, beautiful anterooms lined with original portraits of former justices. Court security escorted us in a highly organized fashion into the main courtroom. The experience of walking into the Supreme Court Courtroom for the first time is overwhelming. We couldn’t help but think that this is the very courtroom where Clarence Gideon, Jane Roe, and, of course, Mrs. Palsgraf made history. Attorneys seeking admission were seated closest to the bench.
At about 9:30 a.m., the clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court, William K. Suter, addressed both the applicants and the movants, giving specific and detailed instructions as to when to sit, when to stand, when to speak, and when to remain silent. Mr. Suter then informed us that apart from group admissions, only approximately 70 individual attorneys are admitted to the Supreme Court Bar in open court each year.
At 9:59 a.m., the audience watched the second hand on the clock located high above the center of the bench approach the top of the hour. Precisely at 10 a.m. a buzzer sounded, Mr. Suter yelled, “All rise,” and the entire nine-member panel of the U.S. Supreme Court took their seats on the bench. It was at that very moment that we knew we did the right thing by requesting admission in person, rather than by mail.
If you are lucky (as we were), the first order of business on the Court’s docket was to read a new opinion. Subsequent to handing down the opinion, the clerk informed the Chief Justice that the next order of business on the docket is the admission of new attorneys. The clerk then read the name of our movant attorney who approached the podium and verbally addressed the entire Supreme Court with his motion. When the moving attorney mentioned our names, we were required to stand until Chief Justice Rehnquist granted the motion. Hearing Chief Justice Rehnquist mention our names and grant the motion admitting us to the Supreme Court Bar was certainly a highlight of our legal careers. After all the motions were granted, the Chief Justice formally welcomed the new members to the Bar of the Supreme Court and the clerk administered the oath.
After conclusion of the court’s docket, the Court recessed. Even though the Court proceedings were over, we returned to the anterooms where the fun was just beginning. On this day, a large group of members of the New York Women Lawyers Association were admitted, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg surprised the group with a visit. Justice Ginsburg then participated in group and individual photos with anyone who requested. Upon leaving the anteroom, we bumped into Justice Sandra Day O’Connor walking down the hallway and discussed our experience with her. She graciously posed for a photograph with the three of us. Both the picture and our Supreme Court certificates now adorn our law offices.
We chose to get sworn in on a Monday morning. To have some fun, we met in Washington, D.C., on a Saturday morning and spent the weekend touring D.C. and even catching a Washington Redskins football game.
Being a member of the Supreme Court Bar certainly has its privileges, including the right to sit in a reserved section of the courtroom for oral argument, use of the Court’s law library, and special personal tours of the Supreme Court for your family and friends.
If you decide to follow our advice and seek admission, the first step is to obtain an application from the clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. The Bar Admissions Office telephone number is (202) 479-3387. The clerk will forward an application which needs to be submitted with a certificate of good standing from the Supreme Court of Florida. The certificate must be from the Supreme Court of Florida, not The Florida Bar. Admission requires that you be sponsored by two current members of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. The application fee is $100. The application requires you to make a choice as to being admitted by mail or in person before the Court. Take it from us, there really is no choice at all.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is shown with Michael Zachary, Eric Glazer, and Stuart Minkowitz outside the anteroom of the Supreme Court after Zachary and Glazer were administered the oath to become members to the Supreme Court Bar.