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Accessing the papers of Supreme Court Justices: Online & other resources

If one goes to the “Frequently Asked Questions” page of the Supreme Court website, there is this question: “Where can I find the papers of the Justices?” Indeed. And here is the answer tendered: “The Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, maintained by the Federal Judicial Center, provides location information for the Justices’ papers. Search by the name of the Justice and then click on the link to ‘Research Collections’ to see where the papers are available. Many collections of papers are located at the Library of Congress and at academic and research institutions throughout the country. Depending upon the institution, some material may be available online.”


From Justice Brennan’s papers.

Building considerably on what is found in the Biographical Directory and aided by the assistance of my colleague Cheryl Nyberg (coordinator of library reference services at the University of Washington School of Law), the following lists were compiled. Some of the sources provide only a few documents, whiles others contain thousands of documents. The first list is followed by two others, which include selected online sites and offline sources with finding aids for archival collections. While not comprehensive, it is the best resource of its kind currently available online.

What is set out below is also intended to complement the list of books by Supreme Court Justices posted earlier on SCOTUSblog (see here) and republished and edited in the Journal of Supreme Court History (see here).

Sources of online papers of U.S. Supreme Court Justices

Blackmun, Harry (Library of Congress)  – Material images, oral history interviews

See also NPR recordings and Lee Epstein site.

Burger, Warren  (College of William and Mary) – Images and some text. In

accordance with the donor agreement, the Warren E. Burger Papers are closed to researchers until 2026.

Clark, Tom  (University of Texas, Tarlton Law Library) – Bench memos, case files, docket sheets, draft opinions (by Justice Clark and other Justices), notes, and a few letters.

Goldberg, Arthur (Northwestern University Library) – Letters, draft opinions, memoranda, and assorted clippings.

Holmes, Oliver Wendell, Jr.  (Harvard Law School Library) –100,000 digitized documents and over 1,000 images.

Jay, John (Columbia University Libraries) –An image database and indexing tool comprising some 13,000 documents (more than 30,000 page images) scanned chiefly from photocopies of original documents.

Powell, Lewis, Jr.  (Washington and Lee School of Law) – Online materials limited to Supreme Court case files.

Story, Joseph  (Harvard Law School Library) – More than 120 documents with more than 3,500 pages.

Warren, Earl  (LexisNexis Academic, commercial product) – Case files, draft opinions, notes and correspondence with clerks and other Justices, conference memoranda.

Guides and finding aids to printed materials

The next set of references has online guides and finding aids to select collections, but the Justices’ papers themselves are not available online.

Black, Hugo L.  (Library of Congress)

Brandeis, Louis D. (University of Louisville, Louis D. Brandeis School of Law)

See also Harvard Library and see here for his correspondence with Justice Holmes.

Brennan, William J.  (Library of Congress)

Burton, Harold H. (Library of Congress)

Butler, Pierce (Minnesota Historical Society)

Chase, Salmon P.  (Historical Society of Pennsylvania)

Cardozo, Benjamin  (Columbia University Library)

Douglas, William O.  (Library of Congress)

Frankfurter, Felix   (Library of Congress)

Fortas, Abe  (Yale University Library)

Goldberg, Arthur (Library of Congress)

Harlan, John Marshall (University of Louisville, Louis D. Brandeis School of Law)

See also Princeton University Library, John Marshall Harlan Papers

Hughes, Charles Evans (Library of Congress)

Jackson, Robert H. (Library of Congress)

Marshall, John (College of William & Mary Library)

Marshall, Thurgood (Library of Congress)

(“I speak for a majority of the active Justices of the Court,” Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote in an extraordinary and stinging letter to James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, “when I say that we are both surprised and disappointed by the library’s decision to give unrestricted public access to Justice Thurgood Marshall’s papers.”)

O’Connor, Sandra Day  (Library of Congress)

Rehnquist, William H.  (Hoover Institution, Stanford University)

Sanford, Edward T. (Sanford Historical Society)

Stewart, Potter  (Yale University Library)

Stone, Harlan F. (Library of Congress)

Taft, William H. (Library of Congress)

Taney, Roger (University of Virginia Law School Library)

Vinson, Frederick M.  (Biographical Directory, U.S. Congress)

White, Byron R.  (Library of Congress)

Additional Sources

The following sources provide additional information (some online, others not) concerning the Justices and their papers. 

Writings and Papers of United States Supreme Court Justices

Georgetown Law Library, Supreme Court Research Guide

Jill Ann Duffy & Elizabeth Ardella Laub Lambert, Researching the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court Historical Society)

Justices’ Correspondence to Wives & Others

(“As suggested by the Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg collections . . . , the papers of Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges contain a wealth of information on federal case law relating to women of all classes, races, and regions.”)

Stephen Wermiel, “Using the Papers of U.S. Supreme Court Justices: A Reflection,” (part II of this highly informative article is titled “From Sacrosanct Secrecy to Archival Access”)

Kathryn A .Watts, Judges and Their Papers

Public Papers of Supreme Court Justices: Assuring Preservation and Access : Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Regulation and Government Information of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, United States Senate, One Hundred Third Congress, First Session, June 11, 1993 (C-SPAN coverage)

 National Study Commission on Records and Documents of Federal Officials, Final Report of the National Study Commission on Records and Documents of Federal Officials (1977)

Writings and Papers of United States Supreme Court Justices

Lydia D’Addario, Personal Papers of Justices of the Supreme Court: A Brief Look at Access Issues (2005)

Adrienne deVergie & Mary Kate Kell, Location Guide to the Manuscripts of Supreme Court Justices (Tarlton Law Library Legal Bibliography Series Number 24, Revised Ed. June, 1981)

Del Dickson, The Supreme Court in Conference: 1940-1985 – The Private Discussions Behind 300 Supreme Court Cases (Oxford University Press, 2001)

Lee Epstein, Jeffrey Segal, Harold Spaeth, & Thomas G. Walker, The Supreme Court Compendium: Data Decisions & Developments (Congressional Quarterly, 5th ed., 2011)

Mark Holman, Online Finding Aids to the Papers of Supreme Court Justices

Maeva Marcus, editor, The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States (multi-volumes) (Columbia University Press)

S. Sidney Uelmer, “Bricolage and assorted thoughts on working in the papers of Supreme Court Justices,” 35 Journal of Politics 286 (May 1973)

Debra Cassens Weiss, Heirs of Early Supreme Court Justice Win Legal Fight for His Papers, American Bar Association Journal (Oct. 4, 2012) (re papers of Justice James Iredell)

Alexandra K. Wigdor, The Personal Papers of Supreme Court Justices: A Descriptive Guide (Garland, 1986) (includes a listing of the location of older Justices’ papers)

Peter Wonders,  Directory of Manuscript Collections Related to Federal Judges, 1789- 1997 (Federal Judicial Center, 1998)

In a future post, Professor Collins will review Justices of the United States Supreme Court, Fourth Edition, 4-Volume Set: Their Lives and Major Opinions edited by Leon Friedman and Fred Israel (Facts on File, 4th ed., 2013).  

Recommended Citation: Ron Collins, Accessing the papers of Supreme Court Justices: Online & other resources, SCOTUSblog (Aug. 22, 2013, 10:28 AM),