The Supreme Court’s Shady Revisions Practice

by Ed Whelan

It’s no surprise that the Supreme Court often makes corrections to the slip opinions that it issues. But its post-issuance revisions go well beyond correcting typographical errors. Worse, the Court keeps hidden from the public the changes that it makes. So reports the New York Times in discussing a forthcoming law-review article (available in draft here) on the topic by law professor Richard J. Lazarus.

From the Times:

Four legal publishers are granted access to “change pages” that show all revisions. Those documents are not made public, and the court refused to provide copies to The New York Times.

The final and authoritative versions of decisions, some published five years after they were announced, do not, moreover, always fully supplant the original ones. Otherwise reliable Internet resources and even the court’s own website at times still post older versions….

I may have some additional comments after reading the Lazarus draft. For now, I’ll simply opine that I see no justification for the Court’s failure to disclose publicly what changes have been made to opinions and when they have been made. (I will note that the Court’s bad practice is apparently a longstanding one.)

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