How to become a member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States

By Dennis P. Brescoll
Brescoll & Brescoll PC
 
As a veteran member of the Michigan Bar, I enjoy attending oral arguments at the Supreme Court of the United States. While at the Supreme Court, I sit with the litigators arguing cases before the Court and on two occasions I have stood at the lectern to address the Court without having a case before it. As a member of the Michigan Bar, you too can have these same experiences by joining the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States as its membership allows you unique access to the Court that is not available to the average visitor or to the attorney who is not a Bar member. This article will discuss how to become a member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States, what will occur on the day of your admission, other places to visit at the Supreme Court and why bar membership can be beneficial to you afterwards.
U.S. Supreme Court Website
 Go online to the website of the Supreme Court of the United States at www.supremecourt.gov and click Bar Admissions where you will find links to: Bar Admissions Form, Bar Admissions Instructions, Argument Day Group Admissions and Large Group Admissions. This will provide you information on admission to the Bar and the form that needs to be completed for your admission.
Requirements for Admission
The requirements for your admission to the Supreme Court Bar are:
1) Being admitted to practice in the highest court of your state for at least a three-year period immediately before the date of application;
2) Not being the subject of any adverse disciplinary action pronounced or in effect during that three-year period;
3) Appearing to the Court to be of good moral and professional character;
4) Filing with the clerk a certificate evidencing admission to practice in your state and also indicating that you are in good standing 
5) Completing a form containing your personal statement and the statements of two sponsors endorsing the correctness of your personal statement. Such sponsors must be members of the Bar of the Supreme Court who personally know you but are not related to you;
6) Paying a $200 admission fee.
The only somewhat tricky part of this admissions process is finding two members of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States to vouch that your application is correct. The Supreme Court Clerk’s Office has a listing of its Bar members but does not provide access to that list except to confirm that a lawyer is a Bar member. If you are a member of MAJ, MDTC, CDAM or attend Bar Association meetings you can most likely find two attorneys who you know that are Supreme Court Bar members who will attest to your qualifications for admission.
Methods of Admission
There are several methods of being admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. The easiest and cheapest but least satisfying method is being admitted on written motion without appearing before the Court by having the attorney whose name you wish to appear on your certificate sign as the moving party. That attorney must be a member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States who may be someone other than the two Bar Members who vouched for you in your personal statement and who may be a relative.
Another method of admission is a large group admission either at the Supreme Court on a day when no oral arguments are scheduled or off premises at another federal court. Fifty persons may attend these admission ceremonies and each may bring a guest. I was admitted by this process in 2005 when the Clerk of the Supreme Court of the United States William K. Sutter came to Detroit to hold an admission ceremony in the U.S. District Court.
The most interesting method of being admitted is at the Supreme Court in open court on the day of oral arguments where you and the person who moves for your admission will appear before the Supreme Court. This of course involves having both of you travel to Washington, D.C. during the term that the Court is in session beginning on the first Monday in October and running through late April. Oral arguments are held at 10-11 a.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in two week intervals, with longer breaks during December and February. You should pick a date for your bar admission well in advance of when you hope to be admitted as the calendar of bar admissions prior to oral arguments fills up quickly. You can have someone sponsor you individually or you can be sponsored by someone in a group admission of up to twelve individuals planned by an organization such as your law school or a law association. 
On the Day of Your Admission
At the admission ceremony, males must wear a coat and tie and females must wear professional business attire. You will enter the Supreme Court in a separate line from the one the general pubic queues up in. After going through security you and your sponsor will check in at the Clerk of the Court’s Office where all of your paperwork will be finalized before you are escorted to an elevator to proceed upstairs to check your overcoat and store your cellphone in a locker. You will then be escorted through the large oak doors into the magnificent Court chambers with its forty-four foot ceiling, twenty-four marble columns, busts of all former chief justices of the Court and an imposing raised mahogany bench where the justices sit while in session. You will be taken inside the brass railing to the front of the courtroom to be seated behind the table reserved for the oralists arguing before the Court. After the justices take the bench your sponsor will be called to the lectern by the chief justice and will bring a motion for your admission to the Supreme Court Bar. You and the other new members of the Supreme Court Bar will then be sworn in by the clerk of the Court.
On admission day your spouse or a guest over the age of six will also be allowed to enter the Supreme Court in the non-public line and be admitted into the Court chambers where he/she may sit near you and your sponsor during the admission process and may be able to stay for the subsequent oral arguments if space permits. 
After all of the new members of the Supreme Court Bar have been admitted, you will then have the added memory of sitting up close to the bench to hear two oral arguments lasting one hour each. The arguments are great fun to listen to regardless of the subject matter. In my three visits to the Court I have heard arguments on criminal law, criminal procedure, election law and bankruptcy law. These arguments were all fascinating to me even though I don’t practice in those areas of law. The thing that really struck me at every argument was how thoroughly prepared the oralists were and how brilliant, funny and engaging the justices of the Supreme Court were in questioning those oralists. Because the justices love to play the role of devil’s advocate, they question each side so thoroughly that it is really difficult to discern from their questions which way they will vote on the case. Weeks or months after the oral arguments it is worthwhile to go back to the Supreme Court website to see how the Court ruled on the cases that you observed to see if you guessed right on the votes.
Other Places to Visit at the Supreme Court
Either before or after the oral arguments you may go to the Lawyer’s Lounge near the Supreme Court chambers where attorneys can relax, meet with other Bar members, use the bathroom or prepare for their argument before they enter the Court chambers. 
After oral arguments have concluded Bar members can go back to the Clerk’s Office to get a pass and visit the Library of the Supreme Court on the third floor. The library collection contains some 500,000 volumes in a room paneled in hand-carved oak that some people say is the most beautiful room in Washington, D.C. You can also go back to the Great Hall to learn more about the Court in the exhibits there. Highlights include the statue of Chief Justice John Marshall, busts and portraits of past justices and the two five-story self-supporting marble and bronze spiral staircases. It’s also fun to go to the bookstore and to buy a book, statue, coffee mug or another souvenir commemorating your big day. 
As you exit the bronze doors of Supreme Court Building and walk down the wide stairway facing the U.S. Capitol you can have your picture taken to further document your experience.
After You Have Been Admitted
After you have been admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court you now have the privilege of attending oral arguments as often as you want. You may enter the Supreme Court in a separate line from the one used by the general pubic. After going through security you will proceed to the Great Hall where at a check-in desk you must show your driver’s license to the Supreme Court clerk’s assistant to be cross-checked as a member of the Supreme Court Bar. You should get there early as your entrance to the building starting at 9 a.m. is on a first-come, first-seated basis so if there is an important case before the Court the Bar member’s line may be long. You may then proceed directly to the Court chambers where you will be seated in the front with the litigators and with other members of the Supreme Court Bar. If there is not enough seating in the Court chambers for all of the Supreme Court Bar members the overflow may hear the arguments in the Lawyer’s Lounge on an intercom system.
You can also sponsor other attorneys in their admissions to the Supreme Court Bar where you will have the thrill of being called to the lectern by the chief justice to address the Court by making the short motion to admit the attorney you are sponsoring. I have done this on two occasions with my son-in-law who is a member of the Virginia Bar and with my brother-in-law who is a member of the Michigan Bar.
After being admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States you will be mailed a certificate reflecting your membership in the Bar which is something that your clients will definitely notice on your wall.
So take that step of applying for membership in the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. Who knows, you may need the membership when that special case arises that makes it to the Supreme Court of the United States. If not, the experience of appearing before the Supreme Court of the United States is well worth the price of admission.
—————

Dennis P. Brescoll is an attorney with the firm Brescoll & Brescoll, PC in Mt. Clemens. A graduate of Wayne State University Law School, he focuses his practice in personal injury, employment discrimination and the Federal Employers’ Liability Act. He has litigated cases in both state and federal courts, and has argued several cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. 

Comments

  1. No comments
Sign in to post a comment »