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Can I Visit the Supreme Court While It is in Session?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2016
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Many people who are interested in the operation of the judicial system in the United States have visited the Supreme Court in Washington, DC. Among the activities offered are tours, a museum, and the chance to learn about the history of the Court. However, many people wonder if it is possible to visit the Supreme Court while it is in session. Here are a few things that should be kept in mind if a trip to Washington includes plans to visit the Supreme Court.

It is possible to visit the Supreme Court and be able to attend a session. In order to visit Supreme Court sessions, it is important to note when the Court conducts sessions. The opening sessions begin with the first Monday in the month of October, and are reserved solely for the presentation of oral arguments. Using a system based on two-week stretches, sessions are held on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. With some breaks for holidays, the sessions continue until the latter part of April. Generally, the daily schedule begins with two one-hour sessions in the morning, and afternoon sessions scheduled as needed. Both the prosecution and the defense are provided with thirty minutes to make a case and answer any questions that come to the minds of the judges.

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To visit the Supreme Court during the period from May to June, there is a need to check on the times for sessions that focus on the release of orders and the delivering of opinions. These sessions are held on Mondays and continue until all the cases presented during the oral argument sessions have been decided. Generally, each session during this period is between fifteen and thirty minutes, and it is possible to visit the Supreme Court through the last week of June. However, the number of cases that are awaiting a decision determines the exact time frame.

It is an excellent idea to make plans to visit the Supreme Court so there is plenty of time to arrive early on the day of the session. Seating is on a first come, first served basis. During the season for oral arguments, two lines are formed. Visitors who wish to see an entire argument stand in one line, while others who are interested into a quick three-minute visit to a session stand in the second line. Guests are admonished to enter and exit the courtroom quietly, allowing the proceedings to continue without disruption. Visitors have a status of observer only, and may not participate in the sessions.

After people visit the Supreme Court and have a chance to see an actual session, it is possible to obtain copies of Court decisions. The copies are provided by the Public Information Office, located on the ground floor of the building. In most instances, the opinions are prepared and available to the public within thirty to forty-five minutes after the Bench has rendered a decision.

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