Honors Course Reflections

Stephen Frantz: Blog 2

On March 14, we went back to the library, as usual, but we took a few hours out of our day to visit the Supreme Court as well. I’ve seen the courtroom before, but I was in the seats toward the back of the courtroom. I’m guessing that, because this was an academic trip, Dr. Kobylka was able to get us a different tour that placed in the very front of the courtroom, which was pretty cool. We also got to see some conference rooms where dinners were held and had an interesting talk with the law clerk of the Supreme Court. After this break in the day, it was difficult to get back to work, but I made a good amount of progress. At the end of the day, I reviewed over what cases I still had yet to get to, and realized that the last two days were going to be intense; there were about 7 or 8 cases I had yet to complete. The week had worn me out already, but we had to power through for two more days.

March 15 was the first of a two-day rush to march through a bunch of the major cases. By this point, I had figured out how to deal with Justice Blackmun and Justice Brennan’s handwriting, so I was able to read through the papers at a fast pace. It was quite taxing, though. It’s difficult to gauge how many cases you’ll be able to get through prior to arriving in D.C. – especially because the number of cases you want to get through grows as you delve into the papers. Many cases are interconnected with each other, so you’ll find that some are more important than you once thought after looking through the Justices’ papers. In any case, I made a good amount of progress here on Friday, which reduced the amount of work I had to do on Saturday. An adventure occurred Friday evening, though. One of us students accidentally left his phone on the train, which led to about an hour of waiting and uncertainty as to whether he would get it back. Dr. Kobylka kindly waited with him until he did. By that time, it was about 8:30pm or so, so after a few more games of “Secret Hitler,” we all dragged ourselves to bed.

March 16 was our last day in the library, which was bittersweet. On the one hand, the Justices’ papers were really interesting; seeing the original copies of their personal notes was surreal. On the other hand, I was exhausted after our intense and stressful week of studying. For that day, I went through my final two cases and took a long lunch with a friend before returning to complete my final case. After our time at the library ended, we went back to We the Pizza to eat and then went back to the hotel to play “Secret Hitler,” pack up, and sleep for a few hours before our early flight the next day. Ultimately, this trip was wonderful. It was incredibly tiring, but the sense of community I felt with people who were equally focused on their research was something I haven’t felt since I’ve gotten to SMU. Additionally, the opportunity to perform original research (for my first time ever) was a privilege and is definitely an important resume-builder. I’m grateful to the University Honors Program for funding the trip and to Dr. Kobylka for leading a group of misfits around Washington D.C. for the week.

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