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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Macaroni, by Thomas Jefferson

Amanda.jpg An update from Amanda, a junior majoring in Spanish, international studies, political science and anthropology who is investigating the incorporation of the Bill of Rights to the states through the 14th Amendment:

First day in the Library of Congress was a success! After waking up before dawn to prep for the day and grab some hotel breakfast (hot waffles!), we headed off to take the metro into D.C. This is the first lesson I learned on the trip: urban hiking.

Professor Kobylka, our fearless leader, guides us on our daily half-mile trek down the middle of the street, across a bridge, through some mud and down into the metro. The reverse is slightly more difficult because our hotel is at the top of a very steep hill. Nevertheless, now I know that it is possible to combine a research trip to the Library of Congress with a little outdoor adventure.

Our first trip into the city was yesterday (Monday), which was my very first time to visit D.C. We started off at the Library of Congress to pick up our official reader’s cards for the week’s research and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the area. We visited the Jefferson building of the LoC and strolled through an exhibit that included Thomas Jefferson’s library- tons of old and beautiful books. Even if he only opened a tenth of that collection, the man was well-read. Afterward we walked over to the “temple of justice” itself, the Supreme Court building. After much excitement and many photos, we hit the metro again to get back to the hotel and rest up for today.

macaroni%20machine.jpg After the previously mentioned waffles, hiking and metro trip, we found ourselves in the Manuscript division of the LoC bright and early this morning. We had a quick orientation meeting to learn how to call down the boxes of documents we’ll be using. Our wonderful host provided us with a few examples of rare documents housed in the manuscript division’s collections.

macaroni%20tag.jpg These included one of Alexander Graham Bell’s original illustrations of the telephone, Amelia Earhart’s handprint in ink and (my personal favorite, pictured) Thomas Jefferson’s explanation of macaroni and instructions on how to make pasta. We moved from those strange and delightful finds to do a little searching of our own.

I spent my entire day with three boxes of Justice Hugo Black’s papers. I studied draft opinions, memos and correspondence concerning Adamson v California, a case that is central to my research on incorporation. I hope I can get through other cases a little quicker; otherwise I will need about a month in D.C. to finish everything (sorry to my other professors!). It was good for today to get my feet wet and get used to deciphering Justice Black’s terrible handwriting before moving into older 14th Amendment cases concerning incorporation.

We wrapped up our exciting day with some We the Pizza and a discussion with Stephen Wermiel, Justice Brennan’s biographer, about the Supreme Court and doing research in the papers. Tomorrow it’s off to the races again starting at 7:30 am, so I’m sure I’ll get much more done. Until then, happy adventuring!

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