The Making of the Supreme Court Rules

70 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2021 Last revised: 19 Aug 2021

Date Written: April 9, 2021


The reality that rules define institutions is no less applicable to the Supreme Court. Yet the literature on the Supreme Court Rules, and the rulemaking process behind them, is practically nonexistent. Part of the reason is that the rulemaking process for the Supreme Court Rules is a black box—the Court promulgates its rules with neither oversight nor transparency. This article, relying on interviews with current and former government officials, opens that black box to reveal the history of the rulemaking process for the Supreme Court Rules from the 1980s to the present. That process, as contrasted with the open and participatory rulemaking process for the lower-court rules, is highly secretive and insular. The article analyzes the justifications of such an approach and finds none persuasive. The article then turns to modest proposals for reform that will benefit the rulemaking process at marginal cost, which may be useful to the work of the Court-reform commission appointed by President Joe Biden on April 9, 2021.

Keywords: court reform, rulemaking, supreme court, supreme court rules, court rules

Suggested Citation

Dodson, Scott, The Making of the Supreme Court Rules (April 9, 2021). 90 George Washington Law Review (expected 2022), UC Hastings Research Paper Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Scott Dodson (Contact Author)

UC Hastings Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States
415-581-8959 (Phone)


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