Day at the Supremes

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It was my extreme pleasure and pure joy to take a day trip to Washington, D.C. to observe the oral arguments in a case where I had been the trial counsel. The case is captioned Maetta Vance v. Ball State University. Ms. Vance complained of race discrimination and summary judgment had been granted at the federal district court level and affirmed by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

The United States Supreme Court granted cert due to the excellent work of a legal clinic out of the University of Virginia and as a result, I found myself with a golden opportunity to fly to Washington, D.C. and observe the proceedings. What a treat!

While I have been a member of the United States Supreme Court for about 25 years, I had never observed oral arguments, much less argued a case. This is the big leagues. This is watching the absolute best in our profession do battle.

Everything about the trip was simple. A direct flight to Washington, D. C., followed by a Metro ride to the Court, followed by entrance into the beautiful building. My friend Tae Sture instructed me to go to the receptionist’s desk in the museum portion of the Court and upon informing that person that you are a member of the Court, you are provided with a pass to go to the lawyers’ lounge.

After traveling upstairs to the lawyers’ lounge, you find yourself in the midst of about 30 other attorneys who are milling around reading magazines. If you pull our your Smartphone and try to read and respond to emails, you will be admonished immediately.

We were lined up and marched into the courtroom. Oral arguments had already started. However, out of deference to our standing as attorneys admitted to the United States Supreme Court bar, we are led into the courtroom and provided second row seats. You have the great feeling of watching and staring Justices in the eye 20 or 30 feet away. It is like walking into the middle of a major league baseball all-star game and having the great players just feet away.

The oral argument was fascinating. Like most cases, it is always interesting to see that the issue being debated by the appellate courts is far from the issues that you litigated in the lower court.

Overall, the experience was wonderful. I highly recommend to any practicing attorney to attend an oral argument at the Supreme Court of the United States. You will always cherish this extraordinary experience.