February 26, 2020 Practice Points

Admission to U.S. Supreme Court Bar

What it means to be admitted to practice before the Court.

By Sahr A. M. Brima

There is no higher or more powerful court in this country than the U.S. Supreme Court. For litigators, there is no greater or more elusive honor than to argue before this Court. Fortunately, you do not have to litigate your entire life in hopes that the Court might miraculously agree to hear your case to make an appearance. In fact, you need only practice a minimum of three years and be in good standing to be eligible.

Bar Admission Requirements

You must apply and be admitted to the Supreme Court bar to practice before the Court.

  • Under Rule 5.1. “To qualify for admission to the Bar of this Court, an applicant must have been admitted to practice in the highest court of a State, Commonwealth, Territory or Possession, or the District of Columbia for a period of at least three years immediately before the date of application; must not have been the subject of any adverse disciplinary action pronounced or in effect during that 3-year period; and must appear to the Court to be of good moral and professional character.”
  • You also need to be sponsored by two current members of the Supreme Court bar.
  • Many law schools and bar organizations provide opportunities to apply for and attend an admission ceremony each year.   

The Benefits

Although bar admission does not come with a free lifetime parking pass anywhere in the country, it does come with the following invaluable perks:

  • Special seating in the courtroom. Public seating in the Supreme Court courtroom is very limited and members of the public usually have to stand in line for hours before arguments begin at 10 a.m. Members of the bar, however, have their own section and the best view of significant Court arguments. According to the court’s website, “Attorneys who are admitted as members of the Supreme Court Bar may be seated in the chairs just beyond the bronze railing.”
  • Access to the court’s library. Supreme Court Rule 2.1 provides that no one but “appropriate” court personnel, bar members, “Members of Congress and their legal staffs, and attorneys for the United States and for federal departments and agencies,” can use the library.
  • Meet the Justices. There are two options for admittance—in court and on motion. The most memorable by far is an in-court admission ceremony. This can take place on an argument day before the entire Court. There might even be an opportunity to meet and take pictures with one of the Justices beforehand.
  • An impressive, framed certificate. A framed certificate of admission from the U.S. Supreme Court is the mic drop of all office decorations for lawyers. It is obscenely prestigious enough to make your Latin-embossed, ivy league degree seem drab in comparison. 
  • Make history and make your mother proud. For some of us, Supreme Court admission can be an extremely meaningful accomplishment because it may mean being the first in our family, ethnic group, or country of origin to do so. 

Sahr A. M. Brima is an associate at Dorsey & Whitney LLP in their Minneapolis, Minnesota, office. 


Copyright © 2020, American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association, the Section of Litigation, this committee, or the employer(s) of the author(s).