Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
After the Supreme Court released its opinion in McConnell v. Federal Election Commission came the scholarly debate: Was it the lengthiest opinion in Court history? Chief Justice William Rehnquist said it ran 300 pages long. He was close. In fact, if you count its 19-page syllabus and all the dissents, it comes in at 298 pages. Court-watchers quickly started clogging the blogs and listservs with a quest for historical bragging rights. First up came the so-called Telephone Patent Case of 1888, which filled an entire volume of U.S. Reports. At 577 pages, that case was nearly twice as long as McConnell. Case closed? No, says Stephen Wermiel at American University Washington College of Law. Back then, the Supreme Court’s reporter of decisions included oral argument reports and other material. The ruling itself in the decision runs a mere 46 pages. Other contenders included the last landmark campaign finance case, Buckley v. Valeo (293 pages), the death penalty case Furman v. Georgia (232 pages), and the discredited pro-slavery Dred Scott ruling in Scott v. Sandford in 1857 (234 pages). At UCLA School of Law, Eugene Volokh did a computerized word count and found that even though it occupied fewer pages, Scott v. Sandford contained about 10,000 more words than the McConnell ruling. Why the anomaly? Today’s U.S. Reports uses a bigger typeface. Paul Finkelman of the University of Tulsa College of Law weighed in, suggesting that Scott v. Sandford deserves the crown. “Consider that Dred Scott was done without computers, typewriters or clerks to draft the opinions and is clearly the ‘longest’ opinion in terms of efforts of the judges,” he says. The McConnell ruling and other modern contenders should be credited for girth only with asterisks, Finkelman suggests, like Roger Maris’ 61 home runs in 1961. The current Supreme Court’s term is longer than it was in the 19th century, he notes, and current justices have “all sorts of help.” — Tony Mauro

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.