Inside the Supreme Court

Petition to Decision

Papers of Supreme Court Justices on Civil Rights Cases

David Achtenberg

Professor & Law Foundation Scholar

UMKC School of Law

Kansas City, MO 64110-2499


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More Information About Transcripts

The handwritten notes and memos contained in the justices’ papers are not always easy to decipher.  For example, while Justice Powell’s notes tend to be extremely legible, Justice Brennan’s are often faint or ambiguous, and Justice Blackmun's notes use an idiosyncratic shorthand that takes a while to learn to read.  To help readers, I have prepared my own transcription of some of the handwritten documents in each file.   

To make it easier for you to compare my transcript to the original documents, each transcript is accompanied by links to a high resolution pdf of the document and to even higher resolution jpeg's of each page.  So that you can modify the transcripts if you disagree with my reading, I have provided them to you in Word format rather than pdfs.   

Transcribing handwritten notes is an imprecise exercise involving judgment calls and, in some cases, guesswork.  Inevitably,  my transcripts will contain errors, so please e-mail me to identify mistakes or to suggest alternative readings. 

The transcripts use certain conventions which are identified in the first footnote of each document.  The most important of these are the following:

  • Words that were printed or typed in the original document are shown in small caps. 

  • Interpretations of which I am particularly uncertain are italicized and alternative interpretations may be indicated in footnotes

  • All footnotes have been added by me

  • Words added for clarity are enclosed in brackets. 

  • To the extent possible, words or phrases that appear to have been written in the margin are placed in the margin of the transcript.  The footnotes will provide additional information about marginal words or phrases.

Finally, the documents that I have transcribed are not necessarily the most significant documents in the files.  At least initially, I have posted only transcriptions of documents that are almost entirely handwritten (rather than handwritten notes on otherwise typed documents) and have limited myself to a few common categories, such as conference notes, oral argument notes, and handwritten notes prepared by the justices before argument or conferences.  I have transcribed many other documents which I have not yet posted, and I hope to add them to the website later.  If you are interested in my interpretation of any other handwritten portions of the files, please contact me.