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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Full day of research – and fun

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:

Upon arriving in D.C. this morning, we headed over to the Library of Congress. We first met with Jeff Flannery, the head of the LoC Manuscript Division, where we will be doing our research this week. He conducted a tutorial for our group to prepare us for working with the library materials, during which we were able to view some really cool historical documents, including a handwritten letter from Abraham Lincoln and a diagram of the telephone done by Alexander Graham Bell.

We started work at 9:30 or 10 and worked through until 5, only stopping for a quick lunch at the cafeteria – the hours flew by once we mastered the system for requesting boxes from the various collections and got into our research. I spent most of the day in the papers of Justice Blackmun, looking at a few abortion cases from the 1982 term of the Court. It is really amazing to see how much goes into the processes of opinion writing and coalition-building. There are so many memos passed between justices and an innumerable amount of drafts written and revised for some of the more important opinions.

For dinner we headed over to “We the Pizza,” operated by a former competitor from Bravo’s Top Chef, where we devoured eight delicious pizzas. We were joined by Stephen Wermiel, a law professor and Justice Brennan biographer. My roommates, Sarah and Hannah, are big fans of Brennan and of Mr. Wermiel, and were thrilled to get their copies of his biography signed. It was incredible to hear stories from someone who has met a number of members of the Court and who spent over 60 hours interviewing Justice Brennan for his book. All in all, it was a great first day of research and fun.

While the rest of us are exhausted after a long day of research and a long hike back up the hill to our hotel, our beloved professor, Joe “Big Bird” Kobylka is currently outside completing his 2,601st consecutive day of running. Congratulations, Big Bird.

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