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Need a Seat at Supreme Court Oral Arguments? Hire a Line Stander

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

We get a little giddy as First Monday approaches. And then we start mentally planning a visit to the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments and chortle at Justice Antonin Scalia's quips.

If you want to attend Supreme Court oral arguments, but you've never contemplated the logistics of such a venture, FindLaw is here to help.

The Supreme Court's courtroom is small. Within that tiny space, there is designated seating for the justices, their law clerks, the Marshall, the Marshall's aides, attorneys, the justices' special guests, and media. (Frankly, we're surprised that those bodies alone do not violate fire code, but we doubt that a fire marshal would have the nerve to tell The Nine to clear the Court.)

All oral arguments are open to the public, but the remaining seating is limited and on a first-come, first-seated basis. Before a session begins, two lines form on the plaza in front of the building. One is for those who wish to attend an entire argument, and the other, a three-minute line, is for those who wish to observe the Court in session only briefly.

If you want to attend full Supreme Court oral arguments, you should consider hiring a line stander.

The current rate for line standers is $50 per hour, depending on whether or not you have an account with a line standing service. You can search online for "DC line standing" to find information for companies in D.C. that offer this service.

Here's the process: You call a line standing service and request a line stander. The service will ask you for the location or event, the address, and what time you want the line stander to start standing. Your line stander will hold a placard with your name while holding your space. When you arrive, show the stander your ID or business card, and trade places.

So how long should your line stander stand? Standers do not guarantee admission, so the answer depends on how badly you want to hear oral arguments and what time you're willing to show up to relieve the stander. Seating for the first oral argument begins at 9:30 a.m. We recommend requesting a line stander to start at least 12 hours before seating.

If you're on a tight budget, consider these budget-friendlier options:

  • Camp. If you like camping, or wish to save money on a hotel, this is an acceptable option.
  • Hold your own spot for the "early evening" shift from 9 p.m. until you need to crash. When you're ready to leave, call the line standing service and request a stander to pinch-hit for you while you sleep.
  • If you're a gambler, call the line standing service around 4 a.m. and ask how many people are in line. The service can ask one of its standers currently in the line, and advise you on your odds of admission.

Good luck getting a seat for Supreme Court oral arguments. We hope to see you in court. In the audience, that is.

March 25, 2013 Editor's Note: This post has been updated to reflect that the current rate for line standers is $50 per hour. When originally published in 2011, the rate was $36 to $40 per hour.

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