Early this month, current APLU interns had the opportunity to tour the Supreme Court of the United States. Jim Turner, senior counsel in the Congressional & Governmental Affairs Office, arranged the tour for a group of engineers from the University of Virginia and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was kind enough to invite Carlos, Claire, Olivia, and Shalin to join in on the experience!
By Claire Stieg
2014 APLU Summer Intern for Congressional & Governmental Affairs
Shortly after arriving to the Supreme Court, the group was led to the west conference room of the court. The private room is used for events at the court and houses pictures of former Chief Justices. A member of the Clerk’s office introduced us to the building and apologized that we would not be able to see the highest court in the land today, just the Supreme Court. Reportedly, there is a basketball court directly above the second floor! Games are not allowed during trials, of course. Can you imagine how distracting that would be?
We spent the next hour with the Clerk of the Court, Scott S. Harris. Harris, an engineering graduate of Yale University, obtained his law degree from the University of Virginia. He gave us a full run down of the court processes and the way in which cases make it to the Supreme Court. Out of the 100 million cases that go to court each year, only 8,000 are sent to the Supreme Court. From there only a fraction make it in front of the Justices. Harris answered a number of questions regarding his day to day role in the Supreme Court and the influence the court has within the country.
Following our discussion with the Clerk, we received a tour of the east conference room and then proceeded to the chamber. No photos are allowed in the chamber, even when the court is not in session. Regardless, we were able to hear from a curator the history of the court and its building. President Taft commissioned the building for $10,000,000 is 1935. Since then only a few replacements have been made, including the carpet and curtains. Oddly enough, the recording device is almost as old as the building and has not been replaced since the 50s! The time in the chamber was wonderful, and gave each of the interns a glimpse into the complexity and traditions of the Supreme Court of the United States.
As the summer continues, we are all looking forward to experiencing the behind scenes of Washington, D.C. and learning a few of the secrets this city has to tell!