Reporters Can Find Stories in All Federal Courts – Not Just the Supreme One

By Chris Adams

Two reporters who are expert at finding stories in the U.S. court system talked about their strategies for doing so. And those strategies are very different.

Amy Howe helped found SCOTUSblog, a widely respected site used by the public, lawyers and journalists to understand what is happening at the U.S. Supreme Court. In her earlier career as a litigator, Howe served as counsel in more than two dozen cases at the Supreme Court and argued two cases there; she has been editor of SCOTUSblog, and her blog is carried by the site.

Howe led reporters through a description of covering the Supreme Court – a beat that in some ways is very open and in others extremely closed. She described how reporters who drop in on the court – say, a case involving their beat is being argued – can find their way around. She gave practical tips on what to do before the day of a court session, the day of the session and then afterward.

For more information on her approach, see a blog post and video from 2015, as well as a story about her methods from 2016.

Michael Doyle is a reporter for the McClatchy Washington Bureau, and is also on the adjunct faculty for George Washington University in Washington. He is expert at finding stories from lesser-known courts, such as military courts, U.S. Tax Court and the Court of Federal Claims.

The bad news about some of those courts, he said, is that the topics can be technical and the decisions poorly written. The good news is that those courts pump out a lot of decisions – and most reporters don’t pay attention to them. The courts are also perfect for regionalizing coverage, he said. Military courts, for example, have cases involving soldiers based all over the country.

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