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Originally published on July 14, 2020 9:11 pm


Two female firsts in the Supreme Court are retiring. We're talking about the marshal of the court and the reporter of decisions. In 2001, Marshal Pamela Talkin became the first woman to oversee security. Christine Luchok Fallon has been at the court for 31 years, the last nine as the reporter of decisions. NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Pam Talkin had been at the Supreme Court in the top security job for less than two months when 9/11 hit. Her first task that morning was to evacuate the building. But Chief Justice Rehnquist was in a conference room conducting his annual meeting with the chief judges from around the country. Talkin sent in a note to no avail. Finally, she walked into the room to get everyone out of there. A month later, the anthrax attack cross-contaminated all the mail in the Capitol complex. And this time, the court had to do something it had never done since the Supreme Court building opened in 1935. It had to abandon the building for oral arguments, holding them instead at the federal courthouse.

Those months were a baptism by fire for Talkin. In the beginning, she says, there was some angst that a woman could do the job supervising the police and all that. But after the first few months, I had earned people's respect, and, she adds with a chuckle, I had a lot of equity. Talkin is also the court's paymaster and quite literally pays the justices. She has the gavel and calls the court to order every day it's in session, sitting up on the bench next to the justices.


PAMELA TALKIN: Oyez, oyez, oyez. All persons having business before...

TOTENBERG: In addition, Talkin oversees the physical plant of the court and, for 10 years, supervised the first-ever modernization of the building inside and out, all while keeping the place running and quiet. Christine Fallon has a more sedate job, overseeing the publication of the Supreme Court's opinions. She checks every jot and tittle of each opinion. Anything written by the court goes through her editing process before it's finally published. Neither Fallon, 67, nor Talkin, 72, knows exactly what she'll do post-retirement. Each had planned to do a lot of traveling with their mates, but COVID-19 has put those plans on hold.

Nina Totenberg, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.