Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Supreme Court smackdown

Today was one of those days where I thought, "this is employer is going to pay me to stand in a line, AND there's a pretty neat-o experience waiting at the end of said line." My previous work on April 1 has typically consisted of much pulling of hair, consuming of Diet Coke, and fighting with spreadsheets, so going to hear oral arguments at the Supreme Court (in a state tax case, no less!) was a welcome change of pace.

This endeavor is not for the weak. If you want to sit in on the oral arguments in their entirety (and aren't one of those lucky press pass/privileged DC bar member types), you better set that alarm, because the line to get in starts forming during an hour when I prefer to be asleep. Our work informants suggested arriving between 7:00 and 7:30, so my fellow state tax buddy Stephanie and I set a goal of 7:15 to meet on the steps of the Supreme Court. She managed to beat the large group of sleepy high-schoolers making their way through the city...unfortunately, I did not. Neither of us beat the enthusiastic folks who showed up somewhere around 6:30 to kick things off...ick. They typically only seat 50-60 people for the oral arguments, so I was afraid we were going to end up waiting it out for nothing. Fortunately, Stephanie ended up with an actual ticket (#57!) and ALSO managed to snag two highly valuable tickets from the pair behind her who decided they didn't really need to get up close and personal with Polar Tankers, Inc. v. Valdez. Victory!! As we valiantly clung to #57 & #58, the powers that be allowed 50 people to file in a little after 9:00. Oh, please don't let us get this close just to make us miss out and end up at the office after all.

Of course the sky decides at this moment to open up with some sprinkles. Please please PLEASE let us in out of the impending downpour so we can hear all about state tax issues! Please! And again...victory! 20 more people through the door - phew, actual seats. Let the tax smackdown begin.

Hearing oral arguments before the Supreme Court is really a pretty cool experience. Justices dramatically entering courtroom en masse through curtains. Clarence Thomas (not even discretely!) sleeping, which is apparently nothing new for him. The rather imposing courtroom. Justice Breyer beating down counsel for the plaintiff and his inability to articulate exactly what he was trying to say. I mean, he really zinged him a couple of times. Scalia getting all animated about taxes. Realizing just how many issues come before the court and how remarkably varied they are. The action on the bench. The number of times Chief Justice Roberts puts his glasses on, takes them off, puts them on, takes them off. The highest court in the land in action. Moments like this are when I actually like my job.


Trinity said...

I can see why this might be cool but please do not put this on the list of things to do when I visit DC.

Erin said...

We'll stick with spy adventures and things that require a bit less wait time.

Sarah said...

oh know you're a nerd when you get excited about state tax cases :) but you know I'm a nerd right there with you!