Political Science in Washington, 2013

As part of the University Honors Program political science course “Law, Politics and the Supreme Court,” students and Political Science Associate Professor Joe Kobylka are spending spring break 2013 in Washington, D.C. The students are conducting research on Supreme Court cases at the Library of Congress.

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Connecting with Justice Black

An update from Jacqueline, a junior majoring in political science and psychology who is conducting research on Justice Black’s views on expression and the First Amendment:

After catching a 6 a.m. flight, navigating the metro, and gallivanting around the Library of Congress, I’ve learned that this Spring Break will be unlike any other. We have the unbelievable opportunity to research the Supreme Court justices. And I’m not talking about glancing at textbooks or the Internet – this is the real deal. We get to hold in our hands the actual handwritten memos and private conference notes that circulated among the justices.

Supreme Court lovin’

Each morning I eat a scrumptious breakfast of fruit loops and Comfort Inn waffles. Then, we trek to the metro like a small army with Kobylka as our fearless leader. Finally, it’s time to dig into the papers. Somehow, eight or so hours in the library flies by incredibly fast… especially when you get to examine documents such as Thomas Jefferson’s macaroni maker model and letters from accused witches requesting bail.

I’m also becoming best friends with Justice Hugo Black – he lets me read all of his birthday cards, fan mail, and draft opinions. Sometimes his handwriting strains our friendship… but we’re starting to get along swimmingly. I’ve already found some interesting material that will help to explain how Justice Black’s views on free speech evolved over his 34 years on the Court.

These first two days have been exhausting and exhilarating. I can’t wait for the rest of the week. Most important, I can’t wait to tour the Supreme Court! I’m hoping for an encounter with Scalia, but taking a picture next to his portrait may have to suffice. We’ll just have to see.

Sweet dreams, D.C.! It’s gonna be a long day tomorrow hanging out with Justice Black and the gang.

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