The Supreme Court: Overnight Edition
*This post is written in a series of entries to chronicle the experience of camping out overnight in order to gain entry into the Supreme Court on a decision day.
2:30am: I am currently sitting on the sidewalk in front of the Supreme Court with 19 other Machon Kaplan participants. We have all decided to camp out for the night in the hope of gaining admittance to the 50 permanent public seats in the Supreme Court, where the Justices will (hopefully) announce one of the “big” cases– DOMA, Prop 8, Fisher, and Voting Rights– later today. We are all very excited since there are only 4 people ahead of us in line!
4:00am: After playing cards and a failed attempt at sleeping, I walked up to the Capitol building with a couple of people. It is incredible how peaceful it is without hundreds of tourists milling about. It is hard to appreciate the significance of what we are waiting for in our sleep-deprived states, but as I stand admiring the grandeur of the Capitol and I look back at the Supreme Court building, I realize for the first time that we could truly witness history. Even if we don’t hear the ruling on a major case, we will hear rulings first-hand from the very people who made the decisions. The Fisher case (about affirmative action) and the Voting Rights Act case are particularly relevant to my internship at the NAACP Washington Bureau. While I am mainly working on a research project about the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, other interns in the office are focused on the very issues at hand in these cases. These two decisions have the potential to change the course of the NAACP’s work. It is hard to wrap my head around the idea that I might get to witness those very rulings.
8:00am: The press has slowly been arriving and setting up since 5am. Our group has befriended some of the other people in line. After going to Starbucks in shifts since its 5am opening, we are directed to move up onto the steps of the Supreme Court. We are finally given green tickets, confirming our spots in those 50 coveted seats (we feel like Charlie getting his golden ticket in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)! We make our way through various security checks and are led to a hallway in which to wait.
11:00am: We just got out of the Court session, where we heard rulings on five cases, one of which was the Fisher case. Even though I didn’t understand everything in the Justices’ opinions since I am not well-versed in “legalese,” it was an incredible feeling to hear the rulings read by their writers. As another Machon Kaplan participant excitedly pointed out before the session began, we were the first people to hear the decisions. We didn’t read about them through filters of media (although I will definitely read SCOTUSblog to clarify some of the decisions) or by word of mouth. Even in my exhausted state, I can say with absolute certainty that this was worthwhile and meaningful. After our White House visit last week, this Supreme Court adventure, and our meetings with Congressmen at the end of this week, I will have witnessed and experienced all three branches of government. I’m still in a bit of shock that I have been awake since
1:30am, but I can’t wait to share my Supreme Court story with everyone at my internship!
Emily Aronson is a rising junior in the Joint Program at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary, majoring in Ethnicity and Race Studies at Columbia and Jewish Philosophy at JTS. Originally from Bethesda, MD, Emily belongs to Temple Micah in Washington, DC.