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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The end of the beginning

An update from Austin, a sophomore majoring in economics, public policy and political science, with a minor in law and legal reasoning, who is conducting research on the differing “absolutisms” of Justice Black and Justice Douglas’ First Amendment Freedom of Expression jurisprudence:

Having been back in Dallas for a couple days, I have had a chance to step back and reflect on the whole experience of studying in the Library of Congress with my classmates for a week.

The second half of the week proved as exciting, if not more, than the first. We got to tour the institution that we have been so closely studying, and even caught a glimpse of Chief Justice John Roberts in one of the conference rooms. The Supreme Court is an astoundingly beautiful building and truly reflects the significance of the work performed within its walls. Standing behind the podium where lawyers argue in front of the Justices (who are only a few feet away at most) was a surreal feeling. The next day we made our way to the Capitol for a tour and a visit to the House gallery.

Tourism aside, our research also picked up as the week went on, and we got a better feel for what we were doing and how best to do it. The incredibleness of our opportunity really hit me when we recognized Linda Greenhouse, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Supreme Court reporter, whom I have read on many occasions. She was going through the same papers I had just a few tables in front of me. I also understand that we helped break a record for number of boxes requested in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. One day (Thursday, I think) the division served more boxes than it had in some ten years.

Surprisingly, some of the most fascinating material I discovered was by accident, and it didn’t have to do with the paper I am currently writing, but the one I wrote for Dr. Kobylka’s Constitutional Law class last semester. This just demonstrates that these things don’t disappear after the paper/class is over.

After a week of intense research, the work really is just beginning. It is time to organize all the newly gathered information and translate it into a 25-page scholarly research paper.

I’d really like to thank the staff at the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, the Honors Program, the Richter Foundation, and Dr. Kobylka for an unforgettable week.

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