As the rest of us anxiously bite our nails and draft up dozens of news releases, the Supreme Court justices are most likely … proofreading. National Journal’s Margot Sanger- Katz talks to former Supreme Court clerks about what usually happens before a big opinion gets released:
Several former clerks said that the Court’s work has entered, or is just about to enter, the proofreading stage, when professional legal editors review the text to check for style and ensure that all the case citations are correct. The Supreme Court reporter’s office, which performs these functions and writes a brief summary of each case called the “syllabus,” typically takes a few days to ensure that all the t’s are crossed and i’s dotted before the opinion reaches the public.
There is also the matter of printing the opinion. Every time the Court announces a ruling, it must also have paper copies at the ready for the public. The Supreme Court printing office is run by an in-house team of professionals, and they need time to produce hard copies.
Don’t expect the opinion to make its way out to the public before it’s ready for prime time: The Supreme Court is notoriously leak-proof. Its last slip-up was in 1978. The printing shop employee accused of leaking the news to ABC was subsequently transferred to another position.