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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So much history in one room

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 was the best day ever because we finally got to go to the Supreme Court! We started off our day with a private tour of the building, getting access to rooms the public doesn’t usually get to see, including the library, which was the most beautiful, amazing, book-filled wonderfulness I have ever seen. It made me want to be a Supreme Court librarian – or even the janitor or something – just so I could be there every day. The courtroom itself was also unbelievable, and it’s mind-blowing to think how much history has taken place in that room – every Court case since 1935 was argued there – we’re talking Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade, Bush v. Gore, and so many more.

The Supreme Court building also (little-known but awesome fact) houses a basketball court, though we weren’t able to see it. It is located right above the courtroom and is appropriately nicknamed “the Highest Court in the Land.” After the tour, we all spent an obscene amount of time and money in the Supreme Court gift shop, which had every possible Supreme Court-themed souvenir, book, and Christmas ornament you could imagine.

The rest of the day was devoted to more research at the LoC – I spent a lot of the day looking at Justice Blackmun’s papers on the 1992 case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which is one of the major cases I need for my paper. One of the most interesting things I found, though it didn’t really pertain to my topic, was a memo dealing with the logistics for the morning the case was to be argued. So many people were expected to want a space in the limited public seating area that the line outside the Court was to open at midnight before the case started and be monitored by D.C. police. The fact that the Supreme Court is ruling on issues the public is literally camping out all night to hear oral arguments for was really moving, and a testament to the Court’s central role in American life.

After leaving the library, we walked over to Bullfeathers, this really cool restaurant down the street from the library. We had a fun group dinner before heading back to the hotel, a perfect end to a great St. Patrick’s Day at the Supreme Court!

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