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3/17/14: Students experience the U.S. Supreme Court first hand

Release Date: 3/17/2014

Professor Sheila Scheuerman organized an optional field trip during spring break for students to visit Washington, D.C. in correlation with the Supreme Court Seminar she teaches. Five students participated:  3Ls Adrienne Barry, Leigh Ellen Gray, Andrew Holliday, Kelsey Patterson and Megan White. 

The U.S. Supreme Court does not televise any of its sessions, so the only way to actually see the Court in operation is to attend a session in person.  

“Very few practicing lawyers ever attend a U.S. Supreme Court session, so this was a rare opportunity for the students,” said Professor Scheuerman. “Actually seeing the Justices sitting on the bench of the United States Supreme Court is an awe inspiring experience,” she said.

Seated in the second row, the students experienced first-hand the action of the courtroom as the Court delivered an opinion in a non-argument session. 

“Chief Justice Roberts was so warm and engaging, said Leigh Ellen Gray, a third-year student who says the experience was her favorite part of the trip. “He summarized the background of the case in a way that felt more like storytelling than anything else. Even though this is obviously just a routine part of his job, you could tell that he has a passion for the law and wants to make each visitor's experience really special.”

Following the court session the students received a guided private tour of the Court. 

“It was incredible to be in the physical space of the Supreme Court courtroom knowing how many historic cases we've studied were argued and decided right where we were sitting,” said Gray.

The students also gained a practical understanding of the rigors of a U.S. Supreme Court practice by meeting with Anthony Franze, an experienced Supreme Court practitioner and member of Arnold & Porter LLP’s Supreme Court and Appellate Practice Group. 

“I had never seriously considered specializing in appellate practice, until hearing Mr. Franze's explanation of the type of work that he does—I am eager to learn more about it and possibly pursue appellate practice in the future,” said Gray.

The students also enjoyed a tour of the U.S. Capitol, including the Old Supreme Court Chambers located in the Capitol Building. 

“I think the trip was a great reminder of the big picture going into graduation; as law students, we get so bogged down in the minutia of school with studying and exams,” said Megan White, a third year student.  “It was a real eye-opening experience to stand on the front steps of the Court.”

Concluding the trip, the students visited Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC).  Senator Graham serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee and is the ranking member of the Subcommittee on The Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. 

Taught by Professor Sheila B. Scheuerman, the Supreme Court Seminar explores the role and function of the United States Supreme Court.  The seminar concentrates on how the Court makes those decisions and analyzes the Court’s relationship to the other branches of government. 

Written by: Kat Drerup