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.

A discovery about segregation

Catherine.jpg An update from Catherine, a junior English and public policy major, who is investigating the development of various forms of scrutiny and case analysis over time in the Supreme Court pertaining to the civil rights of African-Americans, women and homosexuals:

Day 4 in D.C. will be hard to top. Despite a growing fear in most of us that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the research we need (and want) to do, the time spent this morning away from the Library of Congress in the Supreme Court was spectacular.

The Supreme Court has a way of making you feel both connected to history in a huge, magical way and simultaneously making you think to the future and what history is still to be made. Having a great tour guide made the morning all the more special; a student himself (with a fabulous internship …), his knowledge ensured that we did not miss any detail no matter how small – from little stone turtles holding up lampposts in the courtyard to the amazing amount of deference the Court still pays to John Marshall today.

The courtroom where oral arguments are heard is pretty amazing – we each took a turn standing at the podium where arguments are made with the Chief Justice only a few feet away, but the nerdy part of me fell in love with the library. The room is huge, comfortable, ornate, and has a beautiful ceiling that exists as one of the few unrestored pieces in the Court. I could live in there.

Although leaving the Supreme Court was a bummer, I was soon cheered up upon re-entering the Library of Congress. Yesterday did not provide me with the amount of material I hoped, but today more than made up for that. While I came to D.C. expecting to be most impressed by the papers of Justice Brennan, Justice Blackmun, and Chief Justice Earl Warren (three of my favorite Supreme Court justices), it was surprisingly the papers of Justice Robert Jackson in Brown v. Board of Education that really blew me away today.

For one, I learned something new. I came across a memo titled “A Random Thought on the Segregation Cases.” As I read the memo, which ultimately declared that Plessy v. Ferguson should be upheld because segregation is not an extreme case that commands intervention from individually “liberal” justices, I came away wondering, “What smug guy is trying to pass this off on Jackson?” A signed “whr” and some help from Dr. Kobylka answered my question. This memo was written by Chief Justice William Rehnquist during his clerkship for Justice Jackson. I was disappointed in Rehnquist but also excited to have such a cool piece of history in my hands. There were also tons of letters written from people both in favor of segregation and in favor of de-segregation – each side equally passionate and pleading; many brought tears to my eyes.

All in all it was by far the coolest day I’ve had so far on the trip, and I hope for an equally cool day tomorrow!

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Where the great cases are heard

Brandon.jpg An update from Brandon, a first-year English and political science major, who is researching Justice Blackmun’s shift in his position on federalism between National League of Cities v Usery (1976) and Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority (1985):

Today was another exciting day here in D.C. In addition to doing my regular research, I got the chance to go with the rest of the class on a tour of the Supreme Court! When I first walked in, I was taken aback by the architecture: beautiful marble pillars lined the halls, and the carvings in the walls and ceilings were simply breathtaking. Our tour guide started by taking us to the statue of John Marshall. He seemed awfully surprised that we could actually tell him about the significance of Marbury v. Madison, but then again, I’m sure most of the people he gives tours to aren’t in intense Supreme Court seminars like we are.

We got to go into a few conference rooms, see the pictures of the justices on the walls, and even take a step into the justices’ library, but the highlight of the tour was definitely going into the room where lawyers argue cases in front of the justices. Walking up to the podium and realizing that this is the spot where all of the most important cases of the past 75 years have been argued was certainly overwhelming. I can’t even imagine how intimidating it must be to actually argue a Supreme Court case while staring down Chief Justice John Roberts. Unfortunately for us the Court wasn’t hearing cases this week so we didn’t get to run into any of the justices, but it was still an amazing experience nonetheless.

Of course no tour is complete without a stop at the gift shop, and I definitely got my fair share of Supreme Court swag on the way out. I’m looking forward to wearing my brand-new Supreme Court tie soon, and I even got a few surprises to bring back home to some friends. However, considering how big of a Supreme Court nerd I am, I have a strong feeling none of them is going to appreciate these presents as much as I would. Regardless, the tour was a great way to start the day before hitting the books again at the Library for the rest of the day.

My research continues to go well, and I think I’m on track to find all the information I need before we head back home on Saturday. I was a little bit nervous at first, but now that I have the hang of going through these papers it’s gotten a lot easier. I’m looking forward to a good last full day of research tomorrow!

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Constitutional law: Behind the scenes

Kevin.jpg An update from Kevin, a junior majoring in political science, economics and public policy who is investigating the roots of the Rehnquist Court’s federalism revolution on questions of Congress’ commerce power and sovereign immunity claims under the Eleventh Amendment:

As the time for researching at the Library of Congress draws to a close, I have a great opportunity to look back at all that I have been able to accomplish this week. After three days of research, I have moved beyond the Eleventh Amendment and am now looking at cases decided on the commerce clause.

The justices’ papers that I have evaluated have really given me a behind-the-scenes picture of how the constitutional law that we read (and compose briefs for) is made. For example, yesterday, thanks to Ashley, I got a copy of a memo that was sent from Anthony Kennedy to Harry Blackmun when the Court was deciding Planned Parenthood v. Casey telling him that Roe v. Wade (which he authored) was not going to be overturned. This is just one of the many treasures that we have found in the papers.

Today, before we sat down for another day of awesome research adventures, we had the privilege of exploring the Supreme Court. OK, call me dorky, but my favorite part of this tour was when our guide let us stand at the podium where attorneys and the Solicitor General argue cases before the Justices. Since this is an ultimate dream career of mine, it was one of those moments that made my life (and hopefully is a precursor of things still to come).

After another full day of research, we all wanted to go sit down and just relax at a local restaurant. Tonight, our cuisine was to be found at Bullfeathers, which is a restaurant taking its name, at least in part, from President Roosevelt.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you and yours and may the luck of the Irish be with you!

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Touring the palace of justice

James.jpg An update from James, a sophomore political science and philosophy major who is researching the shift in Supreme Court cases Poe v. Ullman (1961) and Griswold v. Connecticut (1965):

Today was the day everyone was looking forward to. After an early wakeup and a trip to Capital South, we took our tour of the Supreme Court building. I think the entire experience inside the Supreme Court could be summed up as magnificent. To add to the awesomeness of being inside, we were also lucky enough to have a private tour take us all around the building, to some places the public can’t even go.

My favorite part of the tour was when we went into the courtroom where oral arguments are heard. Our tour guide did a great job explaining all the different nuances of the room, including the seniority seating for the family members of the justices. Each room had a tremendous amount of intricacy and beauty; it is clear why it’s called the palace of justice.

To cap off the wonderful tour of the Supreme Court, I bought some great things in the gift shop for myself and others as gifts. I probably spent too much money, but I’m glad I bought the things I did, including a mug and legal pad (both with the Supreme Court seal).

After the tour it was back to work in the Library of Congress. I have made what I think is significant progress through the papers I needed to get through to advance my research and answer my research question. The days are long and the researching can be frustrating, especially when a file contains only draft opinions, but the experience is without a doubt worth it. This is not an experience I will soon forget.

I’m looking forward to what tomorrow will bring as our final full day of research; hopefully I get everything done that I need to!


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Living the dream (of a Supreme Court fan)

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:

I’m new to blogging, and since others have written depicting our activities throughout the day, my approach, at least on this one, is a bit different. I should say that I’m rather nerdtastically excited about all things Supreme Court and/or Constitution related, so while I wasn’t sure what to expect from this trip, of course I thought it would be a great experience. I did not, however, expect it to be as enlightening or emotional as it has been thus far for me.

It may sound as if I am stating the obvious here, but the members of the Supreme Court are more than just a government institution. They are nine individuals who have to work both together and within their respective interpretations of laws, issues and the Constitution to decide important questions that impact the nation. This burden is one for which I feel our research opportunity is giving me a much greater appreciation.

While much of what I have come across in the files is humorous, such as a letter to Justice Blackmun describing him as a student’s “favorite Justice, except for maybe Justice Stevens,” and Blackmun’s forwarding note to Stevens stating that he was glad to play “second fiddle” to him – clearly the justices have fun and enjoy each other – the dedication and effort that go into making these decisions is readily apparent.

Today was my second day of poring through Blackmun’s files; I find that I have become familiar with his handwriting and can decipher some of it (no small feat!), and it is fun to see the ways in which his personality is translated through his notes on cases. He was a stickler for spelling and grammar, and circulated drafts are littered with question marks, exclamation points and comments such as, “So what?” scrawled in pencil – what a funny little man! Conversely, several of the letters and notes he has in his file, expressing support or dismay for death penalty decisions rendered by the Court, brought tears to my eyes, as did the often brief but sincere responses Blackmun (or his clerks) sent.

Stephen Wermiel, author of Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion (who quite kindly signed my copy of his book – many thanks, Mr. Wermiel!), spoke to us over dinner last evening, and several of his points stayed with me as I worked throughout our second day. An obstacle when using these papers for research purposes is remembering that while the information creates a picture of what was going on between the justices on the Court, it’s not a complete picture. It’s a single person’s perspective of the Court’s happenings, and it is important to realize that while it may be an accurate portrayal of a particular justice’s experience, it does not necessarily reflect the experiences of the other justices – an important insight to keep in mind!

I’m sure there is a more eloquent way to express this, but this is absolutely the coolest academic opportunity I’ve ever had. In about seven hours, we’ll be touring the Supreme Court – an adventure, indeed! In true nerdtastic form, for the week at least, I’m living the dream …

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Three days in

Amy1.jpg An update from Amy, a first-year political science and communications major, who is investigating the exclusionary rule and why it was not overturned during the Burger and Rehnquist courts despite consistent Republican appointments to the Supreme Court:

I am officially a pro at jaywalking. After a mere three days in Washington, D.C., I am fearless in the face of oncoming cars.

But I suppose you want the story from the beginning…

The group set off for D.C. early Monday morning. Professor Kobylka had been stressing about departure gate changes for two weeks at this point. Sunday night, he sent us an email titled “CHANGES!!!” Innocuous at first glance. But you have to understand that this is a man who despises emoticons and rarely approves of exclamation points. All caps and three exclamation points? Unheard of. The message read as follows:

“Okay, Kevin Eaton’s Mother’s airline [American Airlines] has seemingly now decided that we will fly out of TERMINAL A. GATE 19, tomorrow morning. I’d check back before you left, because this is the first time I’ve seen TERMINAL A, but with an EATON running the show, well, you know.”

Luckily, Monday morning, we were back to gate C27. Everyone managed to meet at security without much trouble. The lines were pretty long, even at 6:45 in the morning, but they moved at a decent enough clip to get us all through by 7:15, leaving us an hour to wander the airport and make a McDonald’s run. Many of us were already eyeing the gift shops, but Prof. Kobylka advised us to save our cash for the Supreme Court gift shop, which is, apparently, beyond cool.

The flight itself was relatively uneventful. I was seated in a middle seat, right in front of Kevin and Catherine, and next to an extremely friendly woman whose husband coincidentally taught at SMU. Thankfully, she was as considerate as she was loquacious, turning to her newspapers as I took out my book. Despite the book – or perhaps because of it – I promptly fell asleep as soon as the plane took off.

We landed in D.C. around noon, skipped lunch (as it turns out, I’d be skipping lunch most days in D.C.), and hurried to the Metro. After some difficulty securing our 7-day passes, we were safely on the blue line to Van Dorn Street. The walk from the Metro station to our Comfort Inn was a workout. Not only were we all lugging suitcases behind us, but the sidewalks were badly paved and muddy in many spots. I was afraid Hannah, who easily had the biggest bag, wouldn’t make it. We must have been quite a sight to the cars passing by – a motley train of college students stumbling behind the tall and striding Dr. Kobylka. Like a train of ducklings, except Mama Duck had no regard for traffic signals and crosswalks.

After trudging up a hill, we finally hurried into the hotel. At first, there was some confusion about the rooms, but everything worked out in the end, and before we knew it, we were headed toward DC proper.

Walking down Constitution toward the Library of Congress was incredible. The atmosphere was just intoxicating – important-looking people in suits walking around, impressive columned buildings, and so much white marble and granite. Finally, we arrived at the Library of Congress. After getting through security, we finished registering for library cards and wandered around the ground floor trying to get to the Great Hall. Several pictures later, we finally took the train back to Van Dorn Street. We had dinner at a small Italian restaurant, visited the grocery store, and finally headed back to the hotel.

Tuesday morning, after a pretty satisfactory breakfast, we headed back down to the library to get some serious work done. After a wonderful orientation by the very kind, very accommodating Mr. Jeff Flannery, we finally buckled down for a long day of research. I spent Monday buried in the papers of William Brennan. To my delight, Brennan could be quite snarky when he felt like it. Mosk, the attorney general of California, had spoken to Brennan praising the decision in Mapp v. Ohio. “Thank God for Mapp v. Ohio,” said Mosk. Brennan repeated what Mosk had said in a memo to all the Justices in the Court. Burger, upon reading the letter, immediately circulated an agitated response criticizing Mosk’s statements. He specifically talked about the federal power of the union. Brennan replied, “Though the issue did not come up in our conversation, I’m sure if asked, Mosk would have also said, ‘Thank God California is in the Union.’ ”

Burger, too, was capable of being obnoxious. In one case, he completely changed his reasoning in his opinion for the Court in the second draft. He then stated that he was ready for the opinions to come down. Stevens, who had already circulated several drafts of his dissent, wrote to Burger, expressing his concern about the opinions. Stevens felt that the opinions were not yet ready to come down, especially because Burger’s new opinion had only been out for a matter of days. Burger completely disregarded Stevens’ request and wrote back saying something along the lines of, “Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter. If I have four votes, we’re done. If I don’t, well, we’re also done.”

Although time certainly didn’t pass as quickly as Prof. Kobylka suggested it would, it certainly didn’t feel like we were in there from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. When we finally packed up to leave, I felt relieved and worn out. But there’s no denying that researching in the Library of Congress is an incredible experience.

Speaking of incredible experiences, eating at We the Pizza with Jeff Flannery and Professor Steve Wermiel later that day was an awesome treat. Dr. Wermiel was far more amiable than I expected. As he came in, I could see Sarah’s knuckles turning white as she clutched Vanessa’s hand under the table. Sarah got her autograph and not just one, but several pictures. After chatting late into the night, we finally headed back to the hotel for a few hours of sleep before another day of grueling research.

Wednesday went down in a similar fashion. Outside of the library, I’m glad to say that the group is bonding quite nicely. It’s amazing how close a group of students can get after a few days of nonstop companionship. It’ll be such a pleasure to see how the group continues to grow together.

Tomorrow, we will be touring the Marble Palace itself (and paying a visit to the much-anticipated gift shop).

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Macaroni, by Thomas Jefferson

Amanda.jpg An update from Amanda, a junior majoring in Spanish, international studies, political science and anthropology who is investigating the incorporation of the Bill of Rights to the states through the 14th Amendment:

First day in the Library of Congress was a success! After waking up before dawn to prep for the day and grab some hotel breakfast (hot waffles!), we headed off to take the metro into D.C. This is the first lesson I learned on the trip: urban hiking.

Professor Kobylka, our fearless leader, guides us on our daily half-mile trek down the middle of the street, across a bridge, through some mud and down into the metro. The reverse is slightly more difficult because our hotel is at the top of a very steep hill. Nevertheless, now I know that it is possible to combine a research trip to the Library of Congress with a little outdoor adventure.

Our first trip into the city was yesterday (Monday), which was my very first time to visit D.C. We started off at the Library of Congress to pick up our official reader’s cards for the week’s research and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the area. We visited the Jefferson building of the LoC and strolled through an exhibit that included Thomas Jefferson’s library- tons of old and beautiful books. Even if he only opened a tenth of that collection, the man was well-read. Afterward we walked over to the “temple of justice” itself, the Supreme Court building. After much excitement and many photos, we hit the metro again to get back to the hotel and rest up for today.

macaroni%20machine.jpg After the previously mentioned waffles, hiking and metro trip, we found ourselves in the Manuscript division of the LoC bright and early this morning. We had a quick orientation meeting to learn how to call down the boxes of documents we’ll be using. Our wonderful host provided us with a few examples of rare documents housed in the manuscript division’s collections.

macaroni%20tag.jpg These included one of Alexander Graham Bell’s original illustrations of the telephone, Amelia Earhart’s handprint in ink and (my personal favorite, pictured) Thomas Jefferson’s explanation of macaroni and instructions on how to make pasta. We moved from those strange and delightful finds to do a little searching of our own.

I spent my entire day with three boxes of Justice Hugo Black’s papers. I studied draft opinions, memos and correspondence concerning Adamson v California, a case that is central to my research on incorporation. I hope I can get through other cases a little quicker; otherwise I will need about a month in D.C. to finish everything (sorry to my other professors!). It was good for today to get my feet wet and get used to deciphering Justice Black’s terrible handwriting before moving into older 14th Amendment cases concerning incorporation.

We wrapped up our exciting day with some We the Pizza and a discussion with Stephen Wermiel, Justice Brennan’s biographer, about the Supreme Court and doing research in the papers. Tomorrow it’s off to the races again starting at 7:30 am, so I’m sure I’ll get much more done. Until then, happy adventuring!

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Still going strong in D.C.

April.jpg An update from April, a junior political science and philosophy major, with a Russian minor, who is researching the Burger Court’s evolution in its stance on the death penalty and how external pressures affected their decisions:

It’s experiences like this that foster my love for broadening my knowledge through research, analysis, and awareness. Learning never takes a break and neither do we on our trip here in D.C.

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An extraordinary group

April.jpg An update from April, a junior political science and philosophy major, with a Russian minor, who is researching the Burger Court’s evolution in its stance on the death penalty and how external pressures affected their decisions:

DSC00599%5B1%5D.jpg I don’t think I could have chosen a more perfect group for this trip. Everyone adds so much to the positive and exciting dynamic that is making this experience so incredible. Even though the aim of this class and Library of Congress experience is academic, so far, it has been much more than that. Without any one of my classmates, the trip would lack a special characteristic that each individual provides, and I am so thankful for that.

Beyond that, I can’t believe how much work and effort must have gone into planning this trip. This is such a rare opportunity that all of my classmates and I know we are so fortunate to have.

Yesterday was a whirlwind of getting things straightened out. We met bright and early at the airport at 6:45, although it took a while for our confused little bunch to all get together. We made it through security successfully and finally onto the plane. I started the flight with the full intention of going through much of my research, but halfway through, I decided sleep was extremely necessary, so I took a little nap and woke up just in time for us to land in D.C.! Once we got off the flight, we gathered our luggage and got our metro cards for the week, although that was quite an experience in itself.

Our metro ride on the blue line didn’t seem to take long before we got to our stop and piled out onto the street with all of our bags. We trudged about three-quarters of a mile up a hill and across the highway dodging cars. It was actually much more difficult than it seemed. We got into our hotel and got ourselves situated in our rooms before heading back to the metro for our trip to the Library of Congress.

DSC00611.jpg Once we arrived at the Library of Congress, we went through the process of getting our reader cards and then met with Dr. Kobylka’s friend and director of the library, Jeff Flannery. We were able to peek our heads into the manuscript room before we were sent down into the underground tunnels, where we walked under the Madisonian library to the Jeffersonian library. Inside the second library, we walked to the grand hallway, where there was a room full of tourists taking pictures and then a hallway with the most incredible collection of historical documents as well as a model of Thomas Jefferson’s library, which we discovered was funded by Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys.

Not long after that adventure, we went out the front doors and made our way over to the Supreme Court to take as many pictures in front of the steps as possible in our short amount of time. Our trip back on the metro was full of excitement as we got out at our stop and went on another hike to find a restaurant for dinner, as we realized we had all forgotten to eat lunch. Dr. Kobylka helped us find the perfect restaurant, which was a nice little Italian place with huge plates of incredible pastas. We absolutely stuffed ourselves, while laughing and chatting about anything and everything. I really love this group.

Following dinner, we walked over to the grocery store so we could all grab some personal necessities, and then we followed in line back to the Comfort Inn. All of us dispersed back into our rooms, and I got to work on preparing for the next day.

I can’t believe I actually woke up this morning at 6:30 without any problem. My roommates (Vanessa and Amanda) and I got ourselves ready and headed downstairs for breakfast while planning out our system for the day. Everyone grabbed breakfast as we watched the Japanese crisis on the television. Eventually we all met in the lobby with Dr. Kobylka and headed to the metro with our bags under our arms. Today was the day we started our research.

Once we got to the Library of Congress, Jeff Flannery filed us into a boardroom to give us an information session. After he went through the logistics and had us fill out a few cards, he announced to us that he had a surprise in the folders in front of us on the table. When we read the little tags on top of the folders, we realized they were famous and important documents, such as handwritten letters from Lincoln or Amelia Earhart’s palm print. I don’t think it’s possible to explain the excitement of holding in your hand the actual document from John Hancock to George Washington concerning the Declaration of Independence to the Revolutionary Army.

We were then ushered into the manuscript reading room, where we were issued the first four boxes we each requested. I dived into Brennan’s papers on McGautha v. California and ended the day working on his papers from Furman v. Georgia with a lunch break in the middle at the cafeteria on the sixth floor with Kevin, Vanessa, Amanda and Catherine. By the end of the day, we were exhausted but excited that we had gotten so much accomplished.

DSC00749.jpg Our dinner plans were even more exciting! We went down the street with Jeff to We, the Pizza where we met Stephen Wermiel, the author of Justice Brennan’s biography. He was an incredibly interesting man, who was more than happy to engage in a conversation with each of us about our topics and interests. He shared his experiences with Justice Brennan prior to his passing as we munched on the most delicious pizza ever. When it was time to say goodbye, I grabbed some random woman to take a picture of the group with Mr. Wermiel, and we made our way back to the hotel.

I cannot express how fortunate I feel to be chosen to be a part of this extraordinary group of Political Science majors with a professor who is as passionate about teaching as he is about the subjects. After all the preparation we have gone through the last few months, I can’t believe we’ve begun our week of intense research!

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The adventure of a lifetime

MarthaAn update from Martha, a first-year student planning majors in accounting and political science:

Time has definitely flown, and so much has happened during the past two days. This has definitely been one of the best trips of my life so far, and I know that it will get even better as the week progresses. My only regret is that there is so much to see and do, and not enough time to cram it all in. I’m already wishing that we had two weeks to spend here instead of only one….

The adventure of a lifetime began at 5 o’clock yesterday morning. The climax of the semester had finally arrived, and we were all thrilled to be on our way. The flight to Washington, D.C., was relatively uneventful, except for the group bonding we did while waiting to board the airplane. The excitement only increased as we left the airport behind and boarded the Metro train en route to the Comfort Inn on Van Dorn Street in Alexandria, Virginia.

Martha5.jpg We walked the half-mile or so to the hotel from the Metro station along a worn-out hiking trail; parts of the trail were washed out and covered with mud puddles, and navigating through the boggy parts was quite the adventure, especially with our heavy suitcases in tow. We were all very grateful when we reached the hotel and were finally able to check in after some minor difficulties.

After dropping off our luggage at the Comfort Inn, we headed back into D.C. to check in at the Library of Congress and get our reading cards made. After oohing and aahing over each other’s mug shots, we toured the Library’s Great Room. I loved the spectacular architecture, but I think that my favorite part was the special exhibition of documents that were significant in our nation’s history. There were manuscripts from the Salem Witch Trials, the Boston Massacre, the Continental Congress, and many others, all with nice signs over the glass cases to explain the document’s significance. The exhibit also had little video displays with mini-documentaries on the First Amendment, Civil Rights, the Declaration of Independence, etc., which were great supplements to the material already housed in that particular collection.

I was also fascinated by the re-creation of Thomas Jefferson’s private library, which was eventually sold to pay his debt and became the foundation for what is now the official Library of Congress. I never dreamed that one individual could own that many books, let alone that there were so many diverse topics in Jefferson’s private library. He had books on science, politics, history, gardening, foreign languages, beekeeping, playing the harpsichord, military strategy, brewing, and accounting, to name just a few categories. I was also amazed that so many books of the original collection are still preserved today. Too bad the Library of Congress did not allow cameras in that exhibit – it was definitely an experience that I wanted to capture on film.

After the tour of the Library, we walked over to the Supreme Court building and took a lot of group photos in front of the building. After all the preparation and research our class has done, finally seeing the Supreme Court building was a lot like finding the Holy Grail. Judging by the ear-splitting grins on everyone else’s faces, I would say that they felt very much the same way.

More photos, more oohing and aahing…. Then, we boarded the Metro at the Capital South station and rode back to Alexandria to eat at a little Italian restaurant not far from the hotel. Dinner was absolutely delicious, and tasted especially good after a long day of traveling and sight-seeing in D.C.

Getting up early was not easy this morning, especially since the time zone is one hour ahead of our time zone in Dallas. However, it was a little easier after the great breakfast. Dr. Kobylka had frequently mentioned the hot waffles and other wonderful breakfast items, and I was very satisfied when the hotel’s continental buffet proved to be exactly what he had described it to be. Black coffee in one hand and a bagel to-go in the other, I followed the others down the hiking trail toward the Metro station to begin our first day of research at the Library of Congress.

When we reached the library Jeff Flannery, the head librarian, took us into a conference room and gave us a mini-orientation session. As teasers for what the Library of Congress contains, he had original manuscripts from various library collections laid out on the conference table for us to examine. There was a letter from Jackie Kennedy requesting photographs from her wedding, there was Amelia Earhart’s handprint, there were drawings by Alexander Graham Bell of his telephone design, there was a letter from John Hancock to George Washington regarding the reading of the Declaration of Independence to the Continental Army, there was the original draft of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream Speech,” there were handwritten notes from Justice William O. Douglas to Chief Justice Earl Warren regarding the monumental Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case, and so many other documents – all straight from the pens of famous people. I could hardly believe that I was holding history right there in my hands!

Martha4.jpg After our introductory session, we signed into the Manuscript Reading Room, stored our belongings in our lockers, and embarked on our quest into the papers of the Supreme Court justices. I wrote the numbers of four boxes from Hugo Black’s collection on a request card, and then waited at my table until one of the librarians came from the back room with the boxes all on a little cart. I chose Black’s opinion from Bridges v. California as my first case because it gives so much insight into his early jurisprudence on freedom of speech issues, and I optimistically thought that I would be able to complete my research on at least five cases today. However, there were so many memos, drafts, letters and other documents in the folders (all extremely rich in information) that I ended up spending an entire day on that single case.

In photo: Yours truly and Hugo “No law means no law” Black.

I worked diligently, and only stopped once for a short snack break, but the day flew by, and before I knew it, it was already 5 p.m. and the library was closing. I was rather discouraged, especially since I have so many other cases to examine; however, Dr. Kobylka encouraged me by reminding me that the case was vitally important to my research, and that it was ok to spend that much time on a crucial case. I was extremely grateful for the Richter Foundation’s generous donation to help with photocopying. It saved me hours of precious time trying to decipher Justice Black’s tiny handwriting, and freed up that time for going through other cases.

DC2%5B1%5D.jpg After the library had closed for the day, we walked down the street to a pizzeria aptly named “We the Pizza” and had dinner with Mr. Flannery and Steve Wermiel, who has recently published a biography of Justice William J. Brennan. Over our pizza, Mr. Wermiel gave us valuable advice for our research projects and answered our questions about the different justices’ approaches to judicial decision-making. It was such an incredible evening – after handling the papers that made history all day, now we were sitting down across the table from a living, talking piece of history who gave us insights that we would likely have never discovered on our own in our short time here. Mr. Wermiel even signed Sarah’s and Hannah’s copies of his book – the perfect ending to an incredible day.

I can hardly wait for tomorrow!

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