Supreme Court Spring2011

As part of the political science course “Law, Politics and the Supreme Court,” students and Political Science Associate Professor Joe Kobylka are spending spring break 2011 in Washington, D.C. The students are conducting research on Supreme Court cases at the Library of Congress.

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A ‘wow’ moment

Ashley%20.jpg An update from Ashley, a junior majoring in political science and minoring in Russian area studies, who is researching Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s abortion jurisprudence and her change in stance on the abortion issue during her tenure on the Court:

Today is our last day in the library and in D.C., and while we are exhausted from the research and lack of sleep (too many late nights playing “The Laughing Game”), I know everyone is sad to go. We are spending a couple hours this morning finishing looking through the collections and making last-minute copies of important materials, then around noon we’ll be heading over to Washington Reagan for our flight back to Dallas.

Yesterday I saw a copy of a memo sent from Anthony Kennedy to Harry Blackmun regarding Kennedy, O’Connor, and David Souter’s decision to affirm the central holdings of the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade (a case close to Blackmun’s heart) in their opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Last spring, when I took Professor Kobylka’s Civil Liberties class, he talked about this case and this note, and it was just a “wow” moment for me.

It was the first time the significance of the monumental decisions the Supreme Court makes (and how carefully they have to consider and form their opinions in these decisions) really sank in for me, and it was when I fell in love with this field of study. For me that short little memo represents so much, and it was so exciting to find the copy of it when going through Blackmun’s files – it was something I had been waiting for the whole trip!

We all spent some time in D.C. last night before heading back to the Comfort Inn, and I was glad we walked over to see the White House (which looks beautiful at night), as it was one of the D.C. sights I hadn’t visited before. All in all, this was an amazing trip and a fantastic opportunity to immerse myself in something I really care about. One of the interesting things I’ve realized this week is how easy it is to focus on something you’re really interested in – I have trouble keeping my mind on homework for 30 minutes back at SMU, but 8 hours a day researching in the justices’ papers is no problem!

I am excited to go home and use the copies of the material I made to keep researching and begin writing my paper – I feel like having this material from the justices’ personal papers, instead of just simply the case opinions, will make such a difference. I will miss being in D.C., though, and am sad to be leaving the best roomies ever, Hannah and Sarah! I will also miss our late night Jersey Shore-watching time and shenanigans with James, Brandon, and Kevin. This has been such a great trip, and I feel so lucky to have had this opportunity!

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