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Supreme Court tells lawyers they can’t pay people to stand in line

October 7, 2015

People queue to enter the Supreme Court in Washington on March 25, 2013. The justices will hear arguments on March 26 on California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage and on March 27 on the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)Photograph by Nicholas Kamm — AFP/Getty Images

The controversial practice paying others to hold your spot in line—typically for a chance at the latest iPhone at the local Apple store or some smoked meat at a famous barbecue joint—has now made its way to the Supreme Court.

No, the court’s nine justices haven’t made an official ruling on a case concerning the legality of professional line standers. Instead, as the court opened for it’s new term it declared that “only Bar members who actually intend to attend argument will be allowed in the line for the Bar section; ‘line standers’ will not be permitted,” according to the Washington Post.

Even though Supreme Court Bar members get a fast-tracked line to watch the proceedings, that privilege apparently wasn’t good enough. Some have reportedly been paying $50 per hour for people to stand in the line for them, often arranged through companies that employ homeless people.

Though less than the $6,000 that some members of the general public paid to secure seats for the March 2013 same-sex marriage oral arguments, it was still enough to draw an official pronouncement. Given the current Court’s conservative leanings, it may not be surprising that members of the general public will still be able to spend an unlimited amount for Supreme Court line standers if they so choose: The new ban only applies to Supreme Court Bar members.

The demand for a seat in the courtroom isn’t just because the people prefer seeing a life-size Scalia, but rather because you can’t actually view or even listen to a Supreme Court case without being there—no taping of any kind is permitted.

Of course, this Supreme Court “ruling” has no legal effect beyond the Court’s visitors gallery, but companies with line problems like Apple may choose to follow suit.