What is an "October Term"?:
It occurs to me that some readers probably find it pretty confusing when they come across references to Supreme Court "Terms," "October Terms," and the like. To clarify, the Supreme Court works on a yearly calendar schedule. The first day of the Supreme Court's annual schedule is the first Monday in October, as set by a federal statute. To simplify a bit, everything the Court does starting on that day in October until the same day the next year is part of the "October Term" of that year. The Court generally starts hearing oral argument for the cases on its docket on that day, and generally hears cases on and off until the early spring. The Court then tries to get (and under Rehnquist, succeeeds in getting) all of those cases decided and published by the end of June.

  Why are people talking about the end of the Supreme Court's Term as being on this past Monday if the Term doesn't end technically until October? Because the remaining summer months are mostly downtime at the Supreme Court. While there is always work to be done, ranging from emergency motions and the review of cert petitions to the training of new law clerks, the Court normally doesn't hear cases or publish new decisions during that time. In a practical sense, then, the Term "ends" at the end of June when the merits cases heard since October have been decided. (If a case is scheduled for a hearing over the summer, however, it will still be considered part of the preceding October Term. For example, the campaign finance case was scheduled for argument in September 2003, and was thus technically a case that is part of October Term 2002. But that is relatively rare.)

  The bottom line is that if you hear that someone is writing a book on (say) the October Term 1986, or that somene clerked at the Supreme Court for the October Term 1986, the phrase "October Term 1986" is pretty much just a fancy way of saying "from July 1986 through June 1987."