I guess dreams really do come true, sometimes.
Attending a session of Supreme Court oral arguments has always been on my bucket list. I attribute it to the Schoolhouse Rock song about the three branches of US government, “Three Ring Government.” I had a DVD box set of all of the old School House Rock songs, and that, along with “No More Kings” and “Telegraph Line,” (and probably a dozen more songs whose titles I can’t remember right now), I would play on repeat. This was before I had YouTube or Spotify — or even an iPod or MP3 player — so the only way I could listen to the songs was by playing the DVDs on my big square television in my room.
Just describing that makes me feel old. I know I’m not even that old, but the fact that I am now able to describe how life “used to be” makes me feel like my parents.
Anyway, I attribute my early interest in politics and government (and to a slightly lesser extent, US history) to Schoolhouse Rock. I loved that box set — in fact, I bet I still have it in a drawer somewhere in my parents’ house. I got a weird sense of superiority from knowing the three branches of government and basic early US history before all of my other classmates. I was never one to raise my hand much in class, but just knowing that I knew how the balance of power at the federal level worked while other kids didn’t made me feel special.
That’s not to say those feelings of superiority were good feelings, or that I still have them. But they did inspire me to take more interest in government and politics — an interest that died off in middle and high school and was really only renewed after the 2016 election. And just as importantly, they inspired me to consider a career in law for the first time.
I never dreamt of being president — I’m not a natural born citizen, so that’s never been an option for me. I did take some smug satisfaction from telling adults who tried to be inspiring with that even YOU could become President one day propaganda that I literally could not due to centuries-old irrelevant laws, but that’s beside the point. What I did dream of becoming was a Supreme Court Justice.
And no — the dream I referenced in the opening sentence of this blog that came true was not becoming a Supreme Court Justice (yet) — it was simply getting to visit the Supreme Court and observe oral arguments. I had visited the building earlier in the semester for a tour, but the season hadn’t yet begun, so we didn’t get to watch a case unfold.
My friend, Joanna, and I got there at 6AM for doors that weren’t due to open until 10AM. By the time we had gotten there, there was already a line snaking halfway down the street. From our online research, we’d found that they typically only allow in around 50-60 people; from a preliminary headcount, we were in spaces 55 and 56.
We had a mini-panic attack around 8 or 9am when they let in the first round of people to get out of the cold, and they cut off at fives spaces ahead of us — at number 50 exactly. We knew the number of people they let in each session varied, but we were afraid that maybe they would just cut it off at 50, and we were going to have been literally a few people away from being let in. We decided to stick it out though, hoping that they would let more people in just before 10am.
Turns out, they did. There was some speculation for that first case we went to hear (New York State Rifle and Pistol Association vs the City of New York) might end up being a landmark 2nd amendment ruling. Though it became fairly clear that, due to the law that was up for debate being revoked before the appeal made it to the Supreme Court, there’d be no guns rights showdown like some people hoped, I still think they knew it would be a case that a lot of people would want to hear, so perhaps that’s why we got in even after the first round cutoff.
Despite the fact that the case didn’t end up being a big deal in the gun control vs. gun rights debate (protesters showed up anyway — some with free coffee, which Joanna and I much appreciated after standing outside for four hours) it was still fun to watch. I’ll admit, I was a little starstruck seeing the Justices in person, even from the very back of the room. I wasn’t allowed to take any photos inside the chamber, but even if I could, you’d probably only be able to see a blurry image of RBG scowling and Clarence Thomas slumping in his seat, bored out of his mind.
The second case — something about copyright law — was less exciting. Justice Thomas and I definitely nodded off a few times.
I’m so glad I got to go though. Getting no sleep the night before, waiting outside for four hours, panicking when we thought we had just missed the cutoff, and then going to work after it all for three hours in the afternoon — it was all worth it, in my opinion. Honestly, it was possibly one of my favorite things I did the whole DC semester.
That’s about it for today. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the next one with more updates on my life this semester in Washington, DC. Don’t forget to check me out on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Bloglovin, Twitter, and Tumblr! For business inquiries, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Jacket: Banana Republic
Blouse: Banana Republic
Trousers: The LOFT