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LRC Online Services: Legal Trivia

This guide collects information about the resources that are available online through the Legal Research Center.

November 19 Trivia Question

Q: Who was the last U.S. Supreme Court Justice with wartime military experience?

A: Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired from the Court in 2010, was an intelligence officer in the Pacific Theater during World War II. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service in the codebreaking team whose work led to the killing of Admiral Yamamoto. There have been no Justices who are veterans of the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

John Paul Stevens Portrait

November 12 Trivia Question

Q: When was the U.S. Constitution last amended?

A: The Constitution was last amended on May 7, 1992 with the addition of the 27th Amendment, which prevents any law that changes Congressional salaries from taking effect until the next term. The amendment was initially proposed in 1789, but was largely forgotten until 1982, when a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin wrote a paper about it, arguing that it was still 'live' and could be ratified. When a teaching assistant graded the paper poorly, the student began a successful nationwide campaign for the amendment's ratification. After the student proved that his thesis was correct, the University retroactively changed his grade to an A+.

Congress building


November 5 Trivia Question

Q: What was the first patent awarded by the U.S. government?

A: The first U.S. patent was issued to Samuel Hopkins on July 31, 1790 for a new method of making "pot ash and pearl ash."

Picture of historic patent document


October 29 Trivia Question

Q: What law sets the number of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court?

A: 28 U.S.C. § 1 currently provides that "The Supreme Court of the United States shall consist of a Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices, any six of whom shall constitute a quorum."

Seal of the US Supreme Court


October 21 Trivia Question

Q: Where did the famous judge Learned Hand get his name?

A:  Learned Hand was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit who is one of the most widely-cited jurists in American legal history. "Learned" is a family name - his mother's maiden name was Lydia Learned, and her family traditionally used surnames as given names.

Picture of Judge Learned Hand

October 14 Trivia Question

Q: How many Justices sat on the U.S. Supreme Court when it was first instituted?

A: The Judiciary Act of 1789 provided that the Supreme Court "shall consist of a chief justice and five associate justices." Two weeks before Thomas Jefferson took office, the Federalist-dominated Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1801, which limited the Supreme Court to five justices rather than six so that Jefferson would not be able to fill the next available vacancy. The next Congress repealed the Judiciary Act of 1801 with the Judiciary Act of 1802,

Portrait of John Marshall

October 8 Trivia Question

Q: What was the first U.S. Supreme Court oral argument to be broadcast live on C-SPAN?

A: U.S. Patent Office v. B.V., on May 4, 2020.

Group photo of US Supreme Court as displayed on C-Span

October 1 Trivia Question

Q: What did the common-law crime of mayhem consist of?

A: According to Black's Law Dictionary, mayhem is the "crime of maliciously injuring a person's body, esp. to impair or destroy the victim's capacity for self-defense."

Picture of man in suit punching

September 24 Trivia Question

Q: Which Supreme Court Justice studied English under the famed author Vladimir Nabokov?

A: Justice Ginsburg studied English under Nabokov when she was an undergraduate at Cornell. She said that Nabokov "taught me the importance of choosing the right word and presenting it in the right word order. He changed the way I read, the way I write. He was an enormous influence."

Vladimir Nabokov

September 17 Trivia Question

Q. What was the first student-edited law journal in the U.S.?

A. The Albany Law School Journal, printed in 1875, is the first known student-edited legal periodical in the U.S., although it was arguably more of.a student newspaper than a law journal. Some credit the Harvard Law Review, first published in 1887, as the first true student-edited law review.

Albany Law School Journal

September 10 Trivia Question

Q. How many lawyers are there in the U.S., and which state has the most lawyers?

A. According to American Bar Association data, in 2020 there are approximately 1.3 million lawyers in the U.S. New York has the greatest number of lawyers, with over 182,000 lawyers in the state.

Group of lawyers

September 3 Trivia Question

Q: Who was the first woman to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court?

A: Belva Lockwood was the first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court in 1880. Although the Court initially refused to let Lockwood join the Supreme Court Bar, Lockwood successfully lobbied Congress for anti-discrimination legislation that allowed women to practice in any federal court.

Photograph of Belva Lockwood

August 27 Trivia Question

Q: In the English legal system, what is the difference between a solicitor and a barrister?

A: A solicitor is a legal practitioner who gives legal advice and conducts some legal proceedings, but who has limited rights to advocate in court. A barrister is a legal practitioner who advocates for parties in courts or tribunals. With some exceptions a barrister may only act upon the instructions of a solicitor, who is also responsible for payment of the barrister's fee. Solicitors are more numerous than barristers, and there are different educational and qualification requirements for the two career paths.

Drawing of a barrister

August 20 Trivia Question

Q: When did lawyers start using computers in legal research?

A: Computer-assisted legal research first developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a project of the Ohio Bar Association, which created a product called OBAR putting the full text of cases in an online, searchable format. OBAR later became Lexis, and entered the legal market in 1973. West Publishing first rolled out its own online legal database in 1975.

Laptop computer

August 13 Trivia Question

Q: What is the oldest surviving law code?

A: The Ur-Nammu Law Code, a Sumerian law code dating to around 2100 B.C., is the oldest known law code surviving today. Amongst other things, it contains laws on murder, robbery, divorce, adultery, slavery, and perjury.

Photo of clay cuneiform tablet

August 6 Trivia Question

Q: What does the legal phrase "nunc pro tunc" mean?

A: Nunc pro tunc (a Latin phrase meaning "now for then") refers to an order having retroactive legal effect through a court's inherent power. Nunc pro tunc orders are commonly used to correct errors or omissions in the judicial record.


July 30 Trivia Question

Q: Who was the first comic book superhero to have a secret identity as a lawyer?

A: The Clock was a masked superhero and the alter ego of District Attorney Brian O'Brien, who decided to become a district attorney by day and a vigilante by night. First appearing in 1936, The Clock predated Batman by nearly three years.


July 22 Trivia Question

Q: What is the oldest appellate court in the U.S.?

A: The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which was established in 1722, is the oldest appellate court in the nation.


July 16 Trivia Question

Q: Who was the first Native American to clerk for the U.S. Supreme Court?

A: Justice Gorsuch hired Tobi Young, an Oklahoma-born citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, to clerk for him in the 2018-19 term of the Court. She is believed to be the first enrolled citizen of a Native American tribe to serve as a law clerk at SCOTUS.


July 9 Trivia Question

Q: Where did Ruth Bader Ginsburg teach law prior to being appointed to the judiciary?

A: Justice Ginsburg was a Professor of Law at Rutgers University School of Law from 1963-1972, and at Columbia Law School from 1972-1980.


July 2 Trivia Question

Q: Which U.S. President appointed the most federal judges?

A: Ronald Reagan appointed the most federal judges, with 402 confirmations. Jimmy Carter made the most judicial appointments relative to his term in office, averaging 65.5 judicial appointments per year.

Ronald Reagan portrait


June 25 Trivia Question

Q: What year was the U.S. Code established?

A: Congress established the U.S. Code in 1926, with the enactment of the act of June 30, 1926, chapter 712.

Picture of US Code volumes

June 18 Trivia Question

Q: When was the U.S. Supreme Court building completed?

A: The U.S. Supreme Court did not have a courthouse of its own until 1935, the 146th year of the Court's existence.

SCOTUS building

June 11 Trivia Question

Q: According to the United States Code, what is the national tree of the U.S.?

A: 36 U.S.C. § 305 designates the tree genus Quercus, commonly known as the oak tree, as the national tree. Congress designated the oak tree as the national tree as part of the 2005 Consolidated Appropriations Act.

Picture of an Oak tree

June 4 Trivia Question

Q: Who is the only police officer to have arrested a sitting U.S. President?

A: In 1872, William H. West, a Black police officer who had fought in the Civil War, stopped Ulysses S. Grant at the corner of 13th and M streets in Washington for speeding in a horse-drawn carriage. Grant paid a $20 fine, which he did not contest.

Image of old newspaper

May 28 Trivia Question

Q: Who was the first Black woman to serve as a federal district court judge?

A: Constance Baker Motley was nominated by Lyndon Johnson to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in 1966. Prior to becoming a judge, she was a civil rights litigator and the first black woman elected to the New York State Senate.

Picture of black woman flashing 'V for Victory' sign.


May 21 Trivia Question

Q: Which U.S. Supreme Court Justice was nicknamed "Whizzer"?

A: Byron "Whizzer" White earned his nickname as a college football player at the University of Colorado. He was offered a professional football contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and was named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1954.


May 14 Trivia Question

Q: Which U.S. President also served as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court?

A: William Howard Taft was both the 27th President (1909-13) and the 10th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1921-30). He is the only person to date to have held both offices. 



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