Line-Standing Services at the Supreme Court

The New York Times Caucus blog had a recent article that touched on the lawfulness and propriety of hiring line-standing services for Supreme Court arguments:

By hiring companies like and Washington Express, people who want to hear the court arguments can pay for a proxy to hold their place in line hours or days ahead of time, improving their odds of getting a front-row seat to one of the most anticipated cases this year.

The second and third people in line on Saturday seemed indifferent about the cases and declined to give their names or say whether they were being paid to be there. One of them said it was his third time in line for a Supreme Court hearing, but he could not remember the other cases. He said he had been in line since Thursday; seat assignments are to be given out on Tuesday morning.

“There’s been a huge demand for standing in line,” said John Winslow, director of operations for, which charges $50 an hour to hold places for Supreme Court and Congressional hearings, among other events. “I’ve got between 50 and 60 people available, and I’m anticipating that I’ll have to dip into my fleet of couriers.” His company doubles as a Congressional messenger service.

. . .

The practice angers some in Congress who say that the services give an unfair advantage to those willing to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for access to Supreme Court hearings.

The former congressman Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, is not a fan. He made a wry remark on Saturday about wealthy lawyers paying poor people to suffer in the cold on their behalf. . . .

In 2007, Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, proposed banning the line-standing services for Congressional hearings, saying that lobbyists or wealthy people should have to stand in line like everyone else.

Who hired line-standing services for Tuesday’s argument? TPM reported that Rob Reiner and Ken Mehlman appeared at or near the front of the public line on Tuesday morning. I assume that Reiner and Mehlman didn’t camp out for a few days to be at the front of the line; presumably they were two of the wealthy individuals who paid line-standers to wait for them.

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