The U.S. Supreme Court has made front-page news in the last week, approving marriage for same-sex couples and upholding the Affordable Care Act. From the AP Stylebook, here are some AP style terms to know when covering the highest court in the land:
chief justice Capitalize only as a formal title before a name: Chief Justice John G. Roberts. The officeholder is the chief justice of the United States, not of the Supreme Court.
court decisions Use figures and a hyphen: The Supreme Court ruled 5-4, a 5-4 decision. The word to is not needed, but use hyphens if it appears in quoted matter: “The court ruled 5-to-4, the 5-to-4 decision.”
court names Capitalize the full proper names of courts at all levels. Retain capitalization if U.S. or a state name is dropped: the U.S. Supreme Court, the Supreme Court, the state Superior Court, the Superior Court, Superior Court. For courts identified by a numeral: 2nd District Court, 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
justice Capitalize before a name when it is the formal title. It is the formal title for members of the U.S. Supreme Court and for jurists on some state courts. In such cases, do not use judge in first or subsequent references.
Supreme Court of the United States Capitalize U.S. Supreme Court and also the Supreme Court when the context makes the U.S. designation unnecessary.
supreme courts of the states Capitalize with the state name (the New Jersey Supreme Court) and without the state name when the context makes it unnecessary: the state Supreme Court, the Supreme Court. If a court with this name is not a state’s highest tribunal, the fact should be noted. In New York, for example, the Supreme Court is a trial court. Appeals are directed to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court. The state’s highest court is the Court of Appeals.