Forty-five years of visual journalism from an extremely talented court artist


An overview of the Voting Rights Act argument in Shelby County vs. Holder in 2013. (Art Link)

For 45 years, Arthur Lien has witnessed, sketched and recorded for posterity some of the Supreme Court’s most historic moments. His pencil and watercolor illustrations have the uncanny quality of transporting the viewer into the room at the right time. An emphatic gesture from an oral lawyer. A raised eyebrow from a questioning judge. The heavy silence in the crowded courtroom before a big opinion announcement.

Lawyers, journalists and judges know it as Art, or as court artist. But in a sense, the artist is a misnomer.

Link art at work.

“I tend not to see myself as an artist at all,” he said recently. “I don’t think that’s my approach. Nor am I an editorial cartoonist. I’m more of a journalist. I report what I see. I try to do this without injecting my own opinions.

Art, an impeccable journalist with an artistic talent, retired during the summer. He leaves us with a vast body of work – a visual and documentary record of one of the very few places in American public life where cameras cannot go.

The first Supreme Court argument ever sketched by Art, as a recent graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art, was in 1977. The argument was in University of California Regents vs. Bakkea landmark case in which the court upheld affirmative action (a precedent that is now under threat in the next term).

Some of the last works of Art’s career were his coverage of the case that ended the constitutional right to abortion, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Art recorded the marathon plea and emotional protests after the court released its decision.

Between Bakke in 1977 and Dobbs in 2022, Art has captured countless other milestones, as well as many smaller moments. For most of his career, he worked for NBC News. And from 2013 he also worked for SCOTUSblog. For us, he didn’t just cover the pleadings, op-eds, and other courtroom scenes. He also developed the iconic banners – some whimsical, some beautiful, some poignant – that adorn the top of our homepage.

With a new tenure about to begin and without Art producing any new pieces, SCOTUSblog is going to start to look a little different. (More details on this will be available soon.) But the work of art is timeless. With his help, we have collected a small sample of some of this work. (And you can see even more in our series of tributes to him.)

Thank you Art. Well made and well drawn.

Notable cases

Solicitor General Wade McCree supports in Regents v. Bakke in 1977. Judges Lewis Powell and John Paul Stevens look on.

Judge Byron White announces the opinion in Bowers vs. Hardwick in 1986.

Laurence Tribe pleaded in 2000 in Bush v. Palm Beach County Canvassing Boarda predecessor of Bush versus Gore.

Judge Sandra Day O’Connor announces the opinion in Grumble against Bollinger in 2003.

Elena Kagan, then Solicitor General, responds to a question from Chief Justice John Roberts during the re-argument of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2009.

Judge Antonin Scalia questions Solicitor General Don Verrilli on reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County vs. Holder in 2013.

Judge Anthony Kennedy announces the opinion in Oberfell v. Hodges in 2015.

The interior of the Supreme Court chamber with journalists in the foreground, lawyers and the judges in the background on the bench

The court hears arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in 2021 in front of an almost empty courtroom due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Historical Moments

Judge John Paul Stevens asks a question on April 20, 2010, his 90th birthday. When he retired two months later, he was the second oldest and third longest serving judge in history.

Leaders of the civil rights movement attend the Shelby County dispute in 2013.

The son and widow of Judge Thurgood Marshall attend the announcement of the opinion at Schuette v. Affirmative Action Advocacy Coalition in 2014.

The judges stand at the start of the first session after the death of Judge Antonin Scalia in 2016. Black streamers adorn Scalia’s bench and chair.

Breaking a 10-year period in which he asked no questions, Judge Clarence Thomas poses a question to Ilana Eisenstein in Neighbor v. United States in 2016.

Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg wears a ‘dissenting’ jabot during oral arguments the day after the 2016 presidential election.

SCOTUS Blog Banners

The yard in the fall.

A nocturnal scene of the court.

the congress dome library in the snow



The day after the 2016 elections.

Photography in Marble Square, 2017.

Halloween, 2018.

Women’s World Cup 2019.

The ‘Contemplation of Justice’ statue towers over DC during the summer 2020 protests following the murder of George Floyd.

The death of Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

A bunting adorns Ginsburg’s chair after his death, and the bench remains empty during the pandemic.

Arguments by telephone, November 2020.

The morning of the November 2020 oral argument on the Affordable Care Act at California vs. Texas.

LGBTQ Pride Month, 2021.

Independence Day, 2021.

The demonstrations on the day of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization oral argument in December 2021.


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