SCOTUS Restores Rule 33.1 For Printed Copies of Briefs

Not a good sign for those hoping the pandemic made permanent changes to the Court's practices.


In April 2020, I praised the Supreme Court for loosening Rule 33.1. This rule creates a byzantine regime for printing copies of briefs. It is difficult and expensive to comply with. At the end of my post, I hoped that the pandemic might yield permanent changes in the Court's practices.

The Supreme Court's electronic filing system is excellent–far better than CM/ECF, which the lower courts use. And it is free to the public. Kudos to the Court for developing this system. These changes should be permanent as well. No one will miss these antiquated rules. . . .

It will be difficult for the Court to go back to normal. I like the new normal.

Once again, my predictions about the Court were wrong. It apparently is very easy to go back to the old processes.

Today the Court issued a two-page order. The Court rescinded its March 19, 2020 and April 15, 2020 orders, subject to a few caveats. In short, after September 1, all of the requirements of Rule 33.1 go back into effect.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the requirement of Rule 33.1 that 40 copies of documents be submitted in booklet format will go back into effect as to covered documents filed on or after September 1, 2021. For submissions pursuant to Rule 33.2, the requirement of Rule 39 that an original and 10 copies be submitted, where applicable, will also go back into effect as to covered documents filed on or after September 1, 2021. The authorization to file a single copy of certain documents on 8½ x 11 inch paper, as set forth in the Court's April 15, 2020 order, will remain in effect only as to documents filed before September 1, 2021.

This order does not bode well for those hoping that live-streamed oral arguments continue. I think we will go back to the stone age.

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  1. Low-key elitism.

    Only experienced or well-resourced lawyers dare apply.

    1. The restrictive rules on who can be a counsel of record are partly that, but in my experience, the Court is pretty generous with its in forma pauperis procedures, which mean in effect that lawyers and clients who can’t absorb the printing costs can usually get whatever they want filed there, as long as they have a SCOTUS bar member on the brief.

      1. Wasn’t Gideon pro-se?

        Is that still allowed?

  2. Maybe its a stimulus package — how else would the likes of hire back its worker?

  3. Meh. It’s the SCTOUS. What’s 1 hour of their time worth?

    Probably a couple thousand dollars, at least.

    If it makes it easier for them to follow an argument, it’s probably worth it.

  4. You need them. . . They don’t need you. . .

  5. I learned long ago that judges do not care how much of other people’s money is getting flushed down the toilet for pointless or useless exercises. If it were their own money getting flushed down the toilet, on the other hand . . .

  6. “Once again, my predictions about the Court were wrong.”

    Admission and acceptance are the first steps to recovery.

  7. You can’t expect the Court to suppress long-established liturgical practice in the Temple of Justice.

  8. I actually find it kind of promising that they’re reverting to pre-Covid practice, even if the pre-Covid practices in question were kind of stupid. It suggests that they’ll look skeptically on claims that Covid justifies permanently changing everything, and maybe treat it as a temporary exception to normal life, not a game changer.

  9. Are there still copy shops where you can say “take this PDF and turn it into a perfect bound booklet printed on 73.5 pound kosher paper”? Or did office printers put them out of business?

    Years ago I toured book binders, the kind where you hand them some scientific journals, loose pages, or digital content and get back a durably bound volume. I saw the range of techniques from a small shop that could have been stuck in the 1930s to a largely automated system. They charged tens of dollars per volume.

    A decade after that I watched a librarian rolling a cart full of those expensively bound volumes to be taken to a farm upstate to live out their lives in solitude.

    1. UMass puts them into an abandoned bomb shelter. Seriously.

      The 5 College Libraries bought the old Westover AFB Bunker that was built into a nearby mountain and are using it to store rarely-read books. It’s not a bad idea beyond asking why have the books in the first place???

    2. There are special printers in DC who specialize in printing these SCOTUS booklets. We had to look into it once when my office was contemplating a cert petition and we needed to know how expensive it would be. (Spoiler: very.)

  10. Perhaps an enlarged Supreme Court — less fond of backwardness, less resistant to progress, more modern — will do better.

    Look out, you rock’ n rollers!

  11. Brought to you by Kinko’s.

  12. Exactly how difficult is it to write a word processor that takes standard ASCII text and puts into *any* format which set type printers once used?

    The characters and spacing are all defined — if the 2008 version of MS Word could deal with APA style, someone ought to be able to write something that can deal with this…

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