Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

What Tech Is in the SCOTUS Courtroom?

The U.S. Supreme Court may be the most authoritative court in all the land, but it is surely among the least technologically advanced, particularly in the federal judiciary. And since only a couple of the High Court justices reported even using email, and the fact that you can sometimes hear the paper pages flipping on the audio recordings, one can safely assume that the SCOTUS courtroom is an electronics free environment.

In the actual rules for counsel arguing cases, it is clearly written that no electronic devices, including cell phones, PDAs, computers, or other electronic devices, are allowed in the courtroom. Although clearly there's a double standard, SCOTUS justices are not overwhelmed by massive computer monitors.

Electronic Filing Finally Hits High Court

Though the adoption of electronic filing is just a few weeks away, it does not seem likely that the justices will shift away from the paper anytime soon. The Supreme Court is notorious for being incredibly slow to adopt any new technology. Just take pneumatic tubes for example.

Audio Recording

Although there may not be live audio or televised coverage streaming from inside the courtroom, audio recordings are made and provided to the public after the fact. It is seemingly odd that transcripts are now provided almost immediately online, while, somehow the recordings take much longer to be posted online.

The White and Red Lights

In the courtroom there are two lights, a white light and a red light. When the white light goes on, that's counsel's cue that they only have 5 minutes left. When the red light goes on, time is up. It is a common practice for counsel to stop immediately upon seeing the white light in order to reserve the last five minutes for rebuttal. Protip: Be incredibly nice to court personnel as the Marshall controls the time lights.

Microphone

Fortunately for the soft-spoken attorneys out there, SCOTUS does provide a microphone and an amplification system so that the judges can actually hear the parties' counsels.

Apart from the above, and the massive amount of security technology used in and around the building, the High Court is as low tech as it gets these days.

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