No One Should be Waiting in Lines … Again

by Aaron Nielson — Monday, Mar. 7, 2016@Aaron_L_Nielson

Kimberly Robinson has posted an interesting story about how early you have to get up to get a ticket to a Supreme Court argument. The answer: sometimes very early. This reminded me of my post from last October: “No One Should Be Waiting in Lines.” The Supreme Court, like the Washington Monument, should make at least some tickets available in advance.*

To be sure, if the Court wants to set aside tickets for line standers, that’s fine. But there also should be some path for those who want certainty to know whether there will be a seat waiting. I worry about folks who live in D.C.; they shouldn’t have to wait around in the middle of the night. But I especially worry about folks from out of town. Before buying a plane ticket to D.C., you should be able to know if you will have a courtroom ticket. People from the rest of the United States would be more likely to attend argument if they were certain to get in.

Previously, I brainstormed about making lawyers participate in an auction if they want to use the bar seats. On reflection, that sounds like a bad idea (and may have unintended consequences to boot). But I don’t withdraw the argument that there should be some way to know beforehand whether you have a ticket.

This is all academic for me because I’m a member of the Supreme Court bar (though I wouldn’t be opposed to limiting the number of those seats). But everyone should be able to watch the Supreme Court, not just lawyers. An online distribution system—perhaps coupled with some seats for line standers—seems like a reasonable option.

* Quoting my previous post: “By way of background, my first experience at the Supreme Court was to watch this oral argument. I arrived in the dead of the night to wait. Another group arrived a few minutes later. I got the last ticket; the people behind me didn’t get in. But no one knew that until, as I recall, about 8 or 9 in the morning. So those poor folks, and the scores in line behind them, waited all night for nothing. Wouldn’t it have been great to know beforehand who had a ticket?”

Cite As: Author Name, Title, 36 Yale J. on Reg.: Notice & Comment (date), URL.

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About Aaron Nielson

Professor Nielson is an associate professor at Brigham Young University Law School. Before joining the academy, Professor Nielson was a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP (where he remains of counsel). He also has served as a law clerk to Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. of the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and Judge Jerry E. Smith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. All views expressed are the author's alone. Follow him on Twitter @Aaron_L_Nielson.

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