Supreme Research

Now that you’ve made your oral argument in Legal Research and Writing class, continue developing your advocacy skills by listening to how the pros make their cases in the Supreme Court. You can hear oral arguments from as early as 1955 on (for example, check out the Nixon administration’s argument in 1971 that newspapers shouldn’t be allowed to publish the Vietnam War Pentagon Papers in New York Times v. United States). Oyez has audio for select cases starting with the 1955 Term, and all available audio from 1970 to the current Term. You can also listen to audio of oral arguments as soon as the Friday after they are made on the Supreme Court’s website (written transcripts are posted to the site the same day a case is argued). Visit the Court’s site to hear U.Va. Law’s own Supreme Court Litigation Clinic in action in this Term’s cases Abbott v. United States (Jim Ryan), Borough of Duryea v. Guarnieri (Dan Ortiz), and Fox v. Vice (Mark Stancil). Both and the Supreme Court’s website let you listen online and download MP3s.   

The Supreme Court did not even require parties to file briefs in the 1790s and early 1800s, instead basing its decisions on hours (and sometimes days) of oral argument. Nowadays, attorneys’ written briefs can make or break their case. Briefs also can help your research by alerting you to relevant cases, statutes, and regulations, and by explaining legal concepts. Find PDFs of briefs filed in older cases in the subscription database U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978. This database’s records of what happened at the trial and appellate stages can be great sources for researching the factual background of a Court case. You can download briefs filed in more recent cases for free on the American Bar Association’s website, or link to them directly from cases in Westlaw. SCOTUSblog can keep you up-to-date on all things Court-related with live feeds describing opinions as they’re issued, e-mail alerts, and handy summaries of this Term’s cases.

– Kristin Glover

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Kristin Glover

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