As a auto and motorcycle accident attorney in Woodland Hills and Canoga Park, Barry P. Goldberg may never argue a case in the Supreme Court—but he could!
Most San Fernando Valley lawyers will never have to opportunity to argue a case in the US Supreme Court. However, Valley lawyers should still become members at some point during their careers. While it is true that “membership” is largely symbolic and costs $200, it can provide surprising satisfaction and benefits. At a minimum, the impressive admission certificate ranks along side a law school diploma and license to practice in the State of California. Clients will be impressed. Also, when in D.C., a member has access to the Supreme Court library and can sit up front to hear oral arguments. Because the lines to hear oral arguments are very long, being a member and receiving preferred seating is a nice perk.
The only thing better than appearing before the Supreme Court to be sworn in, is moving a colleague’s admission by addressing the Chief Justice and the balance of the Supreme Court in open court. That said, it is relatively simple to apply and be admitted remotely and the instructions are surprisingly easy to follow: https://www.supremecourt.gov/filingandrules/supremecourtbar.aspx
Under Rule 5.1. “To qualify for admission to the Bar of this Court, an applicant must have been admitted to practice in the highest court of a State, Commonwealth, Territory or Possession, or the District of Columbia for a period of at least three years immediately before the date of application; must not have been the subject of any adverse disciplinary action pronounced or in effect during that 3-year period; and must appear to the Court to be of good moral and professional character.”
The applicant must also get two current members of the Supreme Court bar to sponsor him or her. Since a list is not posted, it is important to ask around to see who you know that are members. Next, go on the California State Bar website and you can order a Certificate of Good Standing which is required as an enclosure to the application. The Certificate only costs a few dollars and arrives in just a couple of days. The hardest decision will be whether to gain admittance in court or by written motion. Written motions are by far the most common.
If an in-person admission can be arranged, it is worth the trouble. However, the logistics are not always easy. For one, an applicant must have a sponsor who is a member also appear and move the admission on a date when the court is in session. Because this requirement can be cumbersome, many applicants join a “group” to be admitted. From time to time, national, regional and local bar associations will plan a trip to Washington D.C. for this purpose. The ABA Seniors Division sponsors the Supreme Court trip every year for a reasonable price and some extra opportunities like meeting a Justice and having photo opportunities.
Admission in court can take place on either an argument day before the entire Court with the Chief Justice presiding, or on a non-argument day with one of the justices hearing and deciding on motions for admission. On argument days, a group is limited to 12. On non-argument days, the group can be as large as 50. If possible, scheduling admission for an oral argument creates an “Historic” experience which is very memorable.
For group admissions, the applicants and their guests are met by a Clerk of the Court who explains the procedure and provides a very warm welcome. The sponsor is provided with a script and is instructed not to embellish otherwise the Chief Justice may take the motion under advisement rather than grant it out right. The Group is ushered into the full court room immediately before the Justices take the bench and get to sit in the very front. Guests sit a few rows back—behind the bar. The Chief Justice will call the sponsor by name to the lectern.
The Chief Justice then calls groups one at a time. They rise. Individual names are called and the movant/sponsor states that the applicants meet the requirements and moves their admission.
Perhaps the ultimate admission procedure is for individuals with individual sponsors. The Clerk meets with the individuals in the Clerk’s office and hands out the motion script to the sponsor which is pre-printed with both the sponsor’s and the applicant’s name. The individual applicants get to go first on the calendar and are recognized by the Chief Justice individually. Moreover, the seating for individual applicants in the courtroom is superior to those admitted in groups—basically, the front row! The thrill of having the Chief Justice and the balance of Justices look you straight in the eye and recognize your admission is a once in a lifetime event for any lawyer.
After the individuals and groups have been admitted, the attorneys and guests are given an opportunity to leave the courtroom or remain for one or both arguments. Most stay and hear the court in action. The elegant skills of the lawyers arguing the cases and the Justices firing questions back and forth add to the immersive atmosphere and create a day to remember. Unfortunately, the no photograph or video rules are strictly enforced.
Because the courtroom has a capacity of only about 400, and seats are set aside for the media and guests of the justices, admission day may be an applicant’s only opportunity to actually witness the court in action close up and firsthand.
After oral argument, it is very meaningful to explore the exhibits in and around the Supreme Court building. The day is not complete without a quick visit to the souvenir shop and then taking the classic photos on the courthouse steps to memorialize the experience.