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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When justices scribble

Sarah.jpgAn update from Sarah, a senior political science major and human rights minor who is investigating John Paul Stevens’ jurisprudential evolution on the death penalty during his tenure on the Supreme Court:

Today is our last full day in the Library of Congress, and it’s bittersweet. I’m excited to get home and organize my research so I can start the writing process; on the other hand, I’ve fallen in love with this place and what I’m doing here. For me, this experience has absolutely confirmed that I’m headed in the right direction with my career plans.

Though I feel slightly disloyal to Justice Brennan for saying this, Justice Blackmun’s files have been my favorite to dig through and by far the most helpful for my research. In addition to the fun, sometimes snarky (and therefore, even more fun) comments he has scribbled on everything, memoranda from his clerks have proved invaluable in giving me an insight to the “behind the scenes” happenings of cases.

A general theme in our course thus far has been how and why justices decide things the way they do – this research opportunity has provided a unique inside look at things about which one wouldn’t know simply reading the published opinions. Not to worry, though – I’m still very much a Brennan-ite! One of the highlights of our Supreme Court tour yesterday was the kindness our tour guide showed in allowing me to see and take pictures of and with the (temporarily taken down to be restored) portrait of Justice Brennan!

As April stated, yes, I was a little late yesterday, but I made it in plenty of time – I easily caught up to the group as they were trekking through the wilderness toward the Metro station. My 6-year-old daughter, Emmy, called to ask if we’d seen President Obama (we haven’t. Not yet, anyway … ), and it set me back a bit. I was not about to miss a tour of the Supreme Court, though – as my classmates’ vivid descriptions provide, it was truly an incredible experience!

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