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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Opening the floodgates

vanessa.jpgAn update from Vanessa, a senior majoring in public policy and economics, with minors in political science and philosophy, who is investigating why strict scrutiny was never applied to gender discrimination cases in the Supreme Court:

Today opened the floodgates of our research into the Justice papers, and I say floodgates because they are literally overflowing (usually – depending on the Justice) with drafts, letters, memoranda and notes on cases. It was amazing to delve into these papers and truly study them; the experience was something I did not expect to find until law school.

Having to get over the initial shock of being given the privilege of seeing, touching, and reading pieces of history such as Lincoln’s papers, Alexander Grahm Bell’s drawings of a telephone, and Brown v. Board of Education letters between Justices, I had to set my mind to work mode and jump right in.

There really is no way of completely preparing until you actually get your hands into these papers to understand what you will be looking at and what you are looking for. I found myself poring four to five hours in Craig v. Boren, and becoming emotionally invested in the creation of intermediate scrutiny because I finally understood all that went into the creation of it.

I also realized I need to be more careful about researching what boxes I find in the finding aid because I ended up looking though all of William O. Douglas’ personal real estate policy financial papers expecting to find Reed v. Reed (he had a great policy, by the way). Either way, I realized there is too much to go through and so little time, I need to find ways to be more efficient and effective in my research; it’s so tempting to dwell over something amazing that you find, but I kept going in hopes that I’d find something even better.

The day went by much quicker than expected, and we found ourselves being kicked out of the Library of Congress. I’ll have to try to remember to pack up earlier so they are not so grumpy tomorrow.

By the time we had dinner, I thought my mind would have been drained from researching all day, but our guest, Steve Wermiel, a distinguished professor at the American University Law School and Justice Brennan’s biographer, had a very stimulating and informative conversation with our rowdy group over eight pizzas. He gave us all tips on researching the Justices’ papers and told us inside stories of the Supreme Court as he saw it; it really was a wonderful dinner with amazing company.

By the time we get back to the hotel, all I want to do is rest, relax, and get ready for tomorrow; today was a well-spent day.

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