Before the week is out some final thoughts on being in DC this historic week. First off what did I do for the other 5 days I was there? Simply put, I was in government geekery heaven.
The majority of the days were at Georgetown Law school in class covering different aspects of the Supreme Court from partisan politics of confirmation, the impact of amicus curiae briefs filled by special interests groups, to preparing and holding a moot court in the Georgetown Law Trial arena (super cool.)
We had an amazing group of presenters including SCOTUSblog creator, Tom Goldstein and New York Times Supreme Court reporter Adam Liptak. I was humbled to be in the presence of not only real authorities about what to expect once in court but also getting their perspectives on how the remaining, undecided cases would be played out.
On Monday we had reserved seats in the Court for the opinions to be released at 10am. As we approached the Court, we saw scores of media and protesters outside. After storing everything we carried in required lockers, minus paper and pen, we were seated in the court by 9:00 for primo court-watching of arrivals. Being the nerdy teachers we are, we created a cheat sheet with docket numbers and holdings to take notes. Most awesome was sitting 20 feet from the media area containing NPR God Nina Totenburg. I wanted to reach over and tell her her voice is Barry White for news junkies everywhere.
Justices O'Connor and Stephens also were seated just before the court opened. When O'Connor entered in a bright red suit there was audible reaction to her presence. One of the lead attorneys in the Prop 8 case, Theodore Olsen, came over and introduced himself to our group and thanked us for encouraging students to want to study law. I still think it is nuts that the opposing counsel in Bush v Gore teamed up to fight Prop 8. I think it is entirely nuts he came over and talked to a bunch of squirrely teachers barely able to contain their excitement, when he could have been talking to so many more important people.
At 10 am a loud bell went off and the justices appeared from behind the red velvet curtains and took their seats. Each of them look just like I've seen in courtroom sketches or in the media. Speaking of courtroom sketches, from where we were sitting we could watch as the artist was capturing as each of the 5 cases being released Monday were read. I wondered if he captured Alito's eye roll towards Ginsburg when she opted to read three separate dissents from the bench. The largest of the cases was the Fisher Case, an affirmation action challenge to the top 10% law in Texas allowing students in the top 10% of their graduating class to go to a University of Texas school of their choice. Outside of marriage equality and voting rights, this case had the potential for fireworks.
A dissent being read in open court is rare unless a justice vehemently opposes the majority. Scalia is famous for his lengthy dissents that typically make news. For all the ways that Ginsburg looks like a strong wind would blow her over, when she began to speak, again a hush came over the audience. In her dissenting opinion she cited the long history of racial and gender based discrimination.
After court we had lunch with a panel of clerks who had worked with the Justices in 2011-2012 term. Monday night we had a reception back at the Court for our final night. Each year, one of the justices speaks to the group at the reception. Justice Ginsburg was our speaker and gave a rousing speech about the role of the court protecting the voice of the minority. I cannot tell you how much this was a once in a lifetime experience to be in her presence as well as see Justice O'Connor in the flesh.
I have such tremendous respect for the road each of them paved for women in the legal profession as well as their decisions that have upheld issues vital to women's equality. One only needs to look to Wendy Davis and her filibuster in the TX Senate this week to know that role models for our children, both boys and girls, are fighting the good fight everyday.
Our group of 29 other teachers from all parts of the country, represented a gamete of schools from a New England prep school to a charter schools in East LA to the good ol' suburban paradise that I call home. I did take my two blocks of free time to tour Smithsonian American History's 150 year Emancipation Proclamation and 50 year anniversary for the March on Washington special exhibits. I also finally got to see the Newseum and their collection of artifacts on civil liberties. Wouldn't you know it that it was the final weekend of a special exhibit commemorating the 5th anniversary of Tim Russet's death. His entire office from Meet the Press from his desk, book collection, artwork from his son Luke, pictures of all the people he had interviewed were displayed. Of course one very famous mini whiteboard had prominence.
I am especially appreciate that Beth H. arranged a private tour of the Capitol for our group. I was able to meet her for drinks as well as dinner while in DC and chat child-free. I only wished I could have still been in DC for the Wednesday marriage equality decision. Many of our group opted to stay an additional day just to be in the crowd.
From the many conversations I had with colleagues during our work together included a dissection of the show House of Cards in every way possible. I do believe each of us checked the viewership box on our applications. I am so thankful for several days to work with like minded teachers. I am thankful that Bill and I were able to work out me coming and being away from the kids. I am so, so thankful that this opportunity of a lifetime was mine.