Political Science in Washington, 2017

Associate Professor of Political Science Joe Kobylka and the students in his Honors Program class “The Supreme Court Seminar” are spending six days in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., doing research in the papers of former Supreme Court Justices. Each student has developed a unique research topic, question, and design, and will use the justices’ papers to find evidence to help answer the question and write a culminating original research paper.

Emotional Rewards

An update from Cooper B., a first-year student studying finance: Wow, what a week capped by so many different emotions. First and foremost was excitement, never before did I think I would be allowed to delve into the primary documents of the Supreme Court Justices that have shaped American history. I felt a genuine sense of awe in holding documents, like Brown v Board of Education and New York Times v Sullivan, that have ended segregation and delineated rights of the press. Walking into, and engaging with, a room filled with landmark history is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity that I did not plan on squandering. Once the excitement had its effect, a new significantly less pleasant emotion [...]

2017-03-23T08:08:02+00:00 March 23rd, 2017|Political Science in Washington, 2017|

Last Night in D.C.

An update from Anna Grace C., a sophomore majoring in fashion media and minoring in law and legal reasoning: We flew back to Dallas today and I am still surprised by all we accomplished in the Library of Congress. I have pages of notes about the cases I researched, and I could not be more excited to start to look through them and begin answering my research question. The last few days in the reading room were similar to the second day: we had the hang of it and everyone was enthralled with the work they were doing. Our last night in D.C. was incredible. We finished up in the reading room at 5 p.m. and went to dinner. After [...]

2017-03-20T09:44:55+00:00 March 20th, 2017|Political Science in Washington, 2017|

Concluding Thoughts

An update from Courtney T., a senior triple majoring in political science, history and Spanish, and minoring in law and legal reasoning Today, we flew back from Washington, DC, and I’ve had a chance to reflect on our experience and recollect my thoughts. My first reaction is: wow. While most of my friends spent their Spring Break vacations at exotic destinations, I still am confident I had the absolute best Spring Break experience. During our time at the Library of Congress I was researching First Amendment jurisprudence during the 20th century. Specifically, I was looking at the split between Justice Douglas and Justice Black on speech conduct issues. Both Black and Douglas were appointed to the Supreme Court by President Franklin [...]

2017-03-20T09:37:21+00:00 March 20th, 2017|Political Science in Washington, 2017|

Write, Edit, Repeat

An update from Greg G., a sophomore majoring in statistical sciences, and minoring in computer science and history: For all of us on the trip, our ability to easily sift out information that’s unlikely to help us and picking out useful quotes, memos, and snippets of conversation between the Justices has grown leaps and bounds over the past week. After reviewing thousands of pages, it’s easy to become a little numb to the material passing through your hands. One thing that’s easy to miss after the shell shock of research hits you is the sheer number of drafts that the Justices go through in preparing their final opinions. Take Justice William O. Douglas as an example: An incredible scholar, hugely [...]

2017-03-20T09:20:14+00:00 March 20th, 2017|Political Science in Washington, 2017|

Critics of the Court

An update from Alex M., a first-year student studying political science, philosophy and mathematics: It is well known that the Supreme Court’s inevitable partnership with controversial topics usually leads to personal attacks against the presiding Justices. However, I came across one such personal attack earlier today in Hugo Black’s papers that is simply too interesting to ignore. Engel v Vitale was a 7-2 school prayer case in which the court ruled that a voluntary prayer before class constituted an establishment of religion. Thus, the school board’s prayer was struck down as unconstitutional and similar local policies across the nation were also voided by the new ruling. The decision was wildly unpopular as many Americans found it to be plainly anti-religious [...]

2017-03-20T09:11:13+00:00 March 20th, 2017|Political Science in Washington, 2017|

Kranepool flies to right. Agnew resigns.

An update from Tim S., a sophomore majoring in political science and history and minoring in public policy and international affairs: Imagine that you've made it to the big time. Your plaintiff or defendant has gone from appellate court to district court, and now stands before the honorable Supreme Court, where as an attorney you're amidst your oral argument, and the questions are coming hot and heavy. As one of the nine justices grills you with queries that they already know the answer to, another member of the bench summons a clerk from "offstage" and hands them a sheet of paper that they give a glance to before running off to fill the order.  For a moment you ponder at [...]

2017-03-20T08:51:00+00:00 March 20th, 2017|Political Science in Washington, 2017|

Another Fascinating Day

An update from Amanda O., a first-year studying history and political science: Today was particularly special because our class was given a special tour of the Supreme Court beyond the gates of the public. Professor Kobylka even arranged the Clerk of the Court to talk to our class and answer our questions in the Nan Rehnquist Tea Room, the official meeting place of the spouses of the justices. There we were able to ask about various aspects of Court life: how emails are affecting the traditional paper communication between the justices, how oral arguments affect the decision-making process, even the probability that a case will be heard by the justices (it’s only about .00014 percent, or 70ish out of 50,000,000ish [...]

2017-03-17T11:49:23+00:00 March 17th, 2017|Political Science in Washington, 2017|

Inside the Marble Palace

An update from Michael R., a senior majoring in political science and English: Meting Out Justice & Meeting a Justice My research project is about the causes of the Supreme Court’s sustained behavior that favored desegregation in a series of education segregation cases from Missouri Ex Rel. Gaines v. Canada (1938) to Griffin v. Prince Edward County (1964). In the big picture, this research topic is framed by expectations about the imperfectability of human nature and thus human institutions. Professor Kobylka likes to quote an insight from the Greek philosopher Socrates about the nature of the law that was recorded in one of Plato’s dialogues, The Republic: “Justice is the interest of the stronger.” For the most part, I agree [...]

2017-03-17T11:41:43+00:00 March 17th, 2017|Political Science in Washington, 2017|

Finding My People

An update from Destiny Rose M., a sophomore triple major in political science, English and philosophy, and double minor in public policy and international affairs and human rights: Today was jam packed and wonderful. After waking up early and managing to only fall asleep a little bit on the metro ride into D.C., I got about a half hour of work in the papers of the Justices done before we rushed over to the Supreme Court for our official tour day. We met the Clerk of the Court there, Scott Harris, who told us about the behind-the-scenes while we sat clustered around a table in the Nan Rehnquist tea room. As Clerk of the Court, Scott Harris essentially has his [...]

2017-03-17T11:30:28+00:00 March 17th, 2017|Political Science in Washington, 2017|

Flying By

An update from Emily Anne O., a junior double majoring in marketing and political science: We are over half way through our D.C. trip, and it is flying by! This morning, we went back to the Supreme Court, but this time was even better than the last. First, we met with the Clerk of the Court in the Nan Rehnquist Tea Room, where the Justices’ spouses gather for luncheons and events. The Clerk talked us through what happens behind the scenes when a case comes to the Court, and afterward we got to ask him whatever questions we liked. It was such a unique and special experience to meet someone who plays a huge role in running the Court and [...]

2017-03-17T11:24:39+00:00 March 17th, 2017|Political Science in Washington, 2017|
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