There are times when you just know that you have a slam dunk motion. But have you ever had that feeling at the Supreme Court of the United States? Thanks to the Lawyers Conference of the Judicial Division, a group of applicants for admission to the Supreme Court Bar felt that confidence firsthand. The group of attorneys and judges from across the Nation arrived in Washington, D.C., on a lovely October day, knowing that the Chief Justice of the United States would favor their request to the Court, and he did. Once Chief Justice Roberts granted the motion for admission and welcomed the group as new members of the Supreme Court Bar, the Clerk of Court administered the oath. That high note kicked off a memorable day at the Supreme Court.
For several years, the Lawyers Conference has sponsored a group of applicants for admission to the Supreme Court Bar. The LC sends a call for applications for Supreme Court Bar membership within the Judicial Division, coordinates the application process, and offers an experience second only to arguing a case at our Nation's highest court.
The event typically begins with an evening meal, where lawyers and judges representing a broad array of practice areas enjoy meeting their fellow ABA members and guests. The following day, the group arrives at the Supreme Court, where they discuss the cases to be argued that day. Then, as the oral argument session begins, the group participates in the admissions ceremony, where a fellow ABA member moves their admission in open court to the Chief Justice. After the group takes the oath, they observe oral arguments by some of the most talented advocates in the country and engaging exchanges with the Justices.
During the Court's modified pandemic operations, group admissions ceremonies were first paused, then resumed, but without the chance to view in-person oral arguments after. Now, the in-person arguments have returned, allowing new admittees a front row seat to the Court.
On October 4, 2022, our esteemed former Chair of the ABA Judicial Division, Hon. Michelle Childs, led the group of new admittees and made the motion for their admission. Former LC Chair, Carolyn Dubay, hosted the group and provided an excellent preview of the day's oral arguments, Arellano v. McDonough, which addressed an equitable tolling question under a statute authorizing disability benefits for veterans, and Merrill v. Caster, which addressed whether Alabama’s voter redistricting violates the Voting Rights Act. The group gathered for lunch afterward at the Supreme Court Historical Society's Opperman House with the Society's Director of Advancement, Martha Meehan-Cohen, to reflect on the morning.
As uncommon as it might be to attend an oral argument session during the first week of the Supreme Court term -- just as the Court re-opens after pandemic operations -- it is truly rare to join the Supreme Court Bar on that occasion. And it is more extraordinary, still, to become admitted before oral argument on an historic Voting Rights Act case. The LC is grateful for the participation of Judge Childs and Carolyn Dubay this year, and the Conference looks forward to hosting new applicants in years to come.
How can you participate in the Supreme Court Bar admissions events? Look for e-mail announcements from the LC announcing the call for applications, and express your interest early. The admissions opportunity is open to 12 applicants, and enthusiasm is always high! To qualify for admission, the applicant must provide a certificate of good standing with the highest court in the jurisdiction where he or she is admitted to practice, have a three-year record of good standing without disciplinary action, present the certifications of two current Supreme Court Bar members attesting to the applicant's character and fitness, complete the Supreme Court Bar application form, and pay the administration fee. The first twelve eligible applicants will receive a curated visit to the Court on their admission date in exchange for the ABA's administrative fee, which covers the cost of the admissions application and catering at the Supreme Court. For more information, please review the program webpage or contact Danielle Norwood at [email protected].