Supreme Court Justices Follow the Precedents of Tradition

Court rules include collegial handshakes, seniority, and no business at the lunch table.

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By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

Its personality may change when judges retire, but the Supreme Court's traditions live on. One is the simple, friendly handshake that justices participate in at the start of pre-court conferences on days when oral arguments are heard. The handshake started more than 100 years ago, and Chief Justice John Roberts says "it's to reaffirm that we're a collegial court." In the new C-SPAN book The Supreme Court, Roberts reveals that the justices also speak around the conference table in order of seniority. Nobody speaks twice before all have been heard. Then, after they hear the oral arguments, the justices typically lunch together. But, as in the Godfather, business talk is taboo. "Somebody will talk about a good movie they've seen or a good book they've read," he says, "the kind of things everybody would talk about at lunch."

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