United States Supreme Court

Description And Comments

Americans across the social spectrum are aligned on exactly one idea: when the outcome of an important legal case does no go the way they thought it should, it’s because the Supreme Court has ignored the actual law in favor of faciens legem de auras.

There are two reasons to visit the Supreme Court: to hear an important case argued or verdict announced; and to tour the building.

Of the two, touring the building is vastly easier and requires less coordination. There are no guided tours and only a handful of exhibits, all on the ground floor. The best of these exhibits is dedicated to the history and architecture of the Supreme Court building. Besides that, another highlights the career of Sandra Day O’Connor, the first female Supreme Court Justice; and a third covers the history of legal education in the United States. There’s also a 24-minute film on the history of the Court, covering its roots in the Constitution, and important cases over the years.

It’s also possible to hear one of those important cases being held live in front of the Court. Sessions start on the first Monday in October and usually run through late April. The Court’s website lists its calendar for hearing cases for the current session, so you’ll typically know around 30 days in advance the date on which a case will be argued.

On the day the case is heard, two lines will form outside of the building, both on a first-come, first-serve basis: one line is for people who want to hear the entire case’s oral arguments; the other is a line of people who’ll get admitted to the Court’s gallery for 3 minutes each, to hear snippets of the case.

Unofficial Tip: Lines to hear important cases will begin to form the night before the Court hears oral arguments.

It’s easier to be at the Supreme Court when big decisions are announced, because the area outside the court can hold many more people. Still, you’ll have to get up pretty early to see a big announcement – around 3:30 AM to get a good spot for Obergefell v Hodges in 2015, close enough to see the TV crews trying to decipher the ruling when it was released around seven hours later.

The Supreme Court has no on-site parking and very limited public parking nearby. Your best bet is to park at Union Station, but if you’re doing that you’re probably better off just taking the Metro.

As with the White House and Congress, access to the Supreme Court is controlled tightly, with lots of security. (In fact, passenger vans and buses aren’t allowed anywhere close to the site.) Leave behind any non-essential items and allow 20 minutes to get through the scans.


1 First St NE
Washington, D.C.
Capitol Hill
Capitol South

Mon-Fri 9am-4:30pm