Supreme Court watchers usually set their sights on the first Monday in October. This year, however, they might want to pay attention to the last Monday in September. On Monday, the preeminent Supreme Court blog, SCOTUSblog, will unveil a new look and some new features.
SCOTUSblog has long stood out to me as among the best of the legal blogs. Here is a blog that has established itself as the definitive and authoritative resource for all things Supreme Court. It tracks the court from all angles, providing news reports, in-depth analysis, case files, court calendars and statistics. All this is done with a roster of contributors that includes practitioners, academics, journalists and others. And while the founder and publisher of SCOTUSblog, Tom Goldstein, has a practice that focuses on Supreme Court advocacy, the blog never seems like a marketing vehicle but always remains focused on providing useful information.
Monday’s redesign will be, by my count, the fourth complete overhaul of the site since it launched in October 2002. More notably, just a year after SCOTUSblog unveiled a major redesign in which it moved away from the traditional blog format of presenting posts in reverse-chronological order, it is now returning to that format.
Among the changes that will be unveiled on Monday:
- The front page “reverts” to a two-column, reverse-chronological format that more closely resembles a traditional blog format, as distinguished from the three-column format now in use that separates “Featured Posts” and “Other Posts.”
- A new bar is added across the top of every page that highlights “Featured Content.”
- There is more prominent integration of social media, particularly with buttons on each post to publish the post to Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.
- Key content now located in the lower portion of the center home page now moves to the right-hand column. This includes the calendar, “This Week at the Court,” “Upcoming Oral Arguments,” “Upcoming Petitions” and “Term Snapshot.”
- The top-of-page navigational elements are restructured in ways that have them point more directly to different types of content.
By email, Tom Goldstein tells me that the most major new feature accompanying the redesign will be a “community” system for discussions. He also provided some insight on the reasons for the redesign:
In some respects, I decided that we needed to move backwards to move forwards. Our last platform was so unusual that I think more than half the readers didn’t really like having the two columns noting blog posts, though there are certainly loud exceptions. I think that platform educated the readers about the other features we have – like the case pages, calendar, and statistics – so those don’t have to be front and center, with everything on a single page, any longer. And the “featured content” level is a better solution to highlighting our most important posts (including because it appears on every page).
This platform is also evolutionary: there is a direct and immediate list of the current term’s merits cases; and the list of upcoming arguments is better than the previous upcoming merits cases, because you see a whole week and a summary of the issue.
These changes to the blog come in a year that also saw changes to Goldstein’s practice. In January, he left Akin Gump and returned to his former firm, Goldstein & Russell, citing client conflicts as his reason for leaving. Initially, it was unclear whether the blog — which he brought to Akin Gump — would follow him when he left. Fortunately for us readers, it did.