Reporter of Decisions

The United States Supreme Court’s “Reporter of Decisions” is an office employing eleven employees who are responsible for technical editing, proofreading and cite-checking all of the Court’s opinions, writing the syllabi that summarize the decisions and accompany their release, and preparing the opinions for final publication. In each of the Court’s opinions, there are two references to the “Reporter of Decisions.” The first reference is in very small type at the top of the syllabus – which, the notice proclaims, was prepared by the Reporter of Decisions and is “no part of the opinion of the Court.” The second reference appears at the top of the first page of the lead opinion, declares that the decision is subject to revision before it is finally published in the US Reports, and invites notification to the Reporter of Decisions of any errors found by readers.

The Reporter of Decisions undoubtedly was called on to correct an error recently made by Justice Scalia in his dissenting opinion filed in EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, L.P. Justice Scalia felt so strongly about his legal position, that he insisted on reading portions of his opinion on April 29 th when the decision was formally announced.

After the decision was announced, Supreme Court watchers discovered Scalia’s mistake–in a paragraph on page twelve of the twenty-one-page dissent, Scalia wrote, “this is not the first time EPA has sought to convert the Clean Air Act into a mandate for cost-effective regulation.” He then cited what he described as EPA’s similar position in a 2001 case. The problem was his characterization of EPA’s position in the 2001 case was inaccurate; on the contrary, EPA argued against the industry’s stand that air pollution regulations should be limited to reflect cost-effectiveness.

By the next day, April 30, the posted, online version of the opinion had been changed. The Reporter of Decisions is contacted between ten and twenty times each year, although many of the notifications do not actually merit corrections. In each of these instances, it was the Reporter of Decisions who handled the mechanics of the corrections, always in consultation with the Justices, but always determined to make sure the Court gets it right.