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The Low-Tech U.S. Supreme Court

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on September 03, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

Gone are the days of non-electronic, hard-copy communications, right? Not so fast! According to The Associated Press, the Justices of the United States Supreme Court are still very low-tech -- almost to the point of being no-tech.

When communicating with each other about pending cases under consideration, the Justices tend to send each other formal memoranda printed on ivory paper. This was revealed by Justice Elena Kagan during an interview by Ted Widmer, a Brown University historian and librarian.

Interestingly, Justice Kagan stated that the Justices communicate with each other in this old-school way even when grappling with cases that present an array of sophisticated technological issues.

Justice Kagan noted that the Supreme Court members still need to learn more to understand email and social media like Facebook and Twitter. She even said that "the justices are not necessarily the most technologically sophisticated people."

This may cause concern that the very Justices who are called upon to rule on high-tech issues do not even understand the technology at stake. But at least Justice Kagan did highlight that the clerks who work for the Justices do use email, and one can bet that these clerks do everything possible to have a full technological grasp of matters before the Court.

Indeed, Justice Kagan explicitly stated that the Supreme Court members do rely upon the technological experience and knowledge of their judicial clerks who are much younger and have grown up in the digital age.

As time marches on, at some point we will have our first Supreme Court Justice who grew up using email and text messaging, while interacting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. But we are not there yet.

So, we have to have faith in the judicial clerks selected by the Supreme Court members and the intellect of the members themselves in ascertaining the technological information explained to them by the clerks.

Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.

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