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History Behind First Monday:

Congress in 1916 advanced the convening of the Supreme Court from the second Monday in October, fixed in 1873, to the first (beginning in 1917). This measure, drafted by Justice James C. McReynolds, was intended to expand the Court’s capacity for handling its growing docket.

First Mondays are solemn, ceremonial occasions. The chief justice opened the proceedings at noon until 1961 and thereafter, as noted in Supreme Court Rule 4 (1) (2003), at ten o’clock. Tributes are offered to retired and deceased colleagues and court officers. New justices take their judicial oaths, solicitors general are presented, and attorneys are admitted to the Court’s bar. Fidelity to the rule of law is symbolized by the presence of members of the executive and legislative branches, as in 1962 when President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson attended during the then‐raging Mississippi racial crisis. Other symbolically significant First Mondays have been signaled by the presence of the first black page (1954), the first black justice (1967), and the first woman justice (1981).

Little business was traditionally transacted in the usually brief First Monday proceedings. Circuit allotments were reported and arguments on motions were presented. The most important event was the release of a lengthy orders list of dispositions of certiorari petitions. Civil rights litigation shook the placid First Monday tradition in 1958, when Justice Felix Frankfurter filed his concurring opinion in Cooper v. Aaron and in 1964 when the Court heard arguments on the public accommodations section of the new Civil Rights Act on opening day. Similarly oral arguments on the First Monday occurred intermittently thereafter until 1975, when the Court began regularly scheduling oral arguments on that day. A politically symbolic but defunct First Monday tradition, which lasted from 1917 until World War II, was adjournment for a White House visit.