Why Does the Supreme Court Start on the First Monday in October?

September 29, 2012
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The first Monday in October is the official start of the Supreme Court term.

The Court is scheduled to open its term on Monday October 1st.  However, the traditional start date for the Supreme Court has not always been on the first Monday in October.  Originally, the Court had two separate terms as set forth in the Judiciary Act of 1789;  the first beginning on the first Monday in February and the second on the first Monday in August.  The reasoning behind those dates had to due with the extensive traveling requirements for the justices, long before the era of trains, automobiles, or airplanes.  At that time, the justices were required to travel a “circuit,” during times that the Supreme Court was not in session, sitting on local federal courts.  The Judiciary Act of 1801, however, expanded the number of District or Circuit courts, which then limited the amount of travel.  Of note, all circuit responsibilities for Supreme Court justices were not fully eliminated until 1911.  In 1844, the Court began on the first Monday in December.  In 1873, the start date was moved to the second Monday in October.  Due to the growing number of cases on the docket, in 1917, the official beginning of the term was moved back to the first Monday in October, where it has remained ever since.  As is also tradition, the opening session will start with the marshall of the Court calling out “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!” derived from Anglo-Norman and French, and meaning “hear ye.”  With the term about to begin, TeenJury reminds all Americans that observing oral arguments at the Supreme Court is a tremendous opportunity to see our government in action.  Within seconds, you feel the power of our Constitution and see the wisdom of our founding fathers.  “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of the United States, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God save the United States and this Honorable Court.”

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