You can learn a lot from a paper trail, and what the U.S. Supreme Court leaves behind is often more interesting and revelatory than what you might glean from oral arguments. Detailed conference notes indicate how a justice might be thinking about precedent and complex case law.
But the Justices are also human. They get bored. They pass notes back and forth. Antonin Scalia once gave Justice Harry Blackmun a note that said, “Harry. Stay awake.”
The justices have also criticized attorneys’ fashion choices, exchanged baseball scores, and passed around dirty poems.
You can find all of that online in the SCOTUS Notes archive, and even help the archive by transcribing some of those handwritten papers yourself.
Political science professor Timothy Johnson has spent decades building this trove of Supreme Court ephemera. As he originally told the Wall Street Journal, the shared notes offer “an interesting insight into what they were thinking about as the attorneys were arguing. They talked about sports, they talked about selling their houses.”