When the justices err, care is taken not to call attention to the mishaps. Some think that’s its own mistake.
Rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court often come with great anticipation and attention, even true drama. Anxious crowds gather outside the court at dawn. Opinions first go out on paper to the waiting hands of television news interns, who sprint the documents to correspondents to be immediately deciphered on the air. Justices later announce their decisions in open court, and occasionally read aloud the opinions.
But when the court fixes mistakes in its opinions, it does so very quietly. No press releases. No public reading of corrections. For most of the court’s history, the justices have only signaled their fixes and edits by adding the word “modified” in small type to newly issued print and digital versions of the opinions.
The changes thus have proved hard to find — not just for the general public, but for lawyers and judges and scholars of the law.
Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, an advocacy group pushing for judicial transparency, thinks that’s a problem.
“The court does what it can to obscure its mistakes and to obscure some of the finer points of what they do,” Roth said.
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