Honors Course Reflections

Stephen Frantz: Blog 1

The last few days have been a bit hectic. Getting adjusted to our daily schedule has been somewhat difficult, especially after getting no sleep the night before the Monday flight from DFW to DC. Monday was quite tiring in itself. After landing, we rode the train from the airport to Ballston station, and then walked 10 minutes to the hotel. Everyone (except Dr. Kobylka, who went on his daily run) relaxed for a couple of hours, and then we all took a tour of Congress’s old Senate chambers that one of the students (Emily Calomino) put together for us. Afterwards, we went to the Library of Congress’s manuscript reading room to get our official Library of Congress reader cards, given exclusively to those who are performing research under an academic institution. The most taxing part of the day came after getting our cards, when we walked for about 45 minutes across the National Mall to see some of the memorials in the area. Dinner was to be at “We the Pizza,” which we were walking further and further away from, much to my (and some others’) dismay. Thankfully, there was a metro station near the National Mall that took us right next to We the Pizza. Once we returned to the hotel, everyone crashed.

March 12, the next morning, the guys’ room (Paxton Murphy, Grayson Sumpter, and I) came alive at about 6 am so that we could get breakfast before leaving at 7:45 am. That was probably the last time any of us would wake up before 7am, since each day probably grows more taxing with reading in the library (as Dr. Kobylka has told us). Once we got to the reading room, we had a one-hour orientation that went over all of the rules of the room. We also got to see several interesting documents as examples of what is housed at the Library of Congress, like Alexander Graham Bell’s earliest-known diagram of the telephone. Once we were released to the reading room, we began going through the Justice’s papers. For me, the first day was a little worrisome. Justice Blackmun’s handwriting is difficult to understand, so I basically spent the entire day on one case (out of the 13 or so I needed to finish by week’s end). Apparently, this experience was similar to everyone else’s, because Dr. Kobylka sent out an email explaining that things get easier as time goes on. After dining at Good Stuff Eatery, a burger joint, we went back to the luxurious Comfort Inn – Ballston for the evening and quickly went to sleep.

Hall with Marble floors, walls, and columns. In between the columns are busts.

The Great Hall in the Supreme Court Building

Today, March 13, we returned to do our research in the library. The days, I think, are going to feel similar from here on out, since, each day, we’re poring over research for 9 hours. Thankfully, the building has a Dunkin Donuts and a Subway, so a quick lunch break, when needed, was available. I feel like I’m getting my bearings with the Justices’ papers; I’ve been going through them much faster since I know what information is typically contained in the papers. Additionally, I’ve found a lot of useful information on how the exclusionary rule (the topic of my research) was crafted as well as some of the difficulties Justice Brennan had in managing getting a majority of Justices to vote to strengthen the rule. After researching, we ate dinner and returned to the Comfort Inn, where many of us played “Secret Hitler,” which Dr. Kobylka brought with him, for the first time. It wasn’t exactly relaxing; it was intense, but enjoyably so. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the week, since this second day of research has gone much better than the first.

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