Attending My First Supreme Court Argument

On leap day, February 29, 2012, I attended my first Supreme Court Argument. Working in Washington DC does have it benefits. There are so many historical buildings in our midst.

The law firm where I work has a well respected appellate practice in addition to many impressive litigators. About 4 months ago, I was talking with one of the partners who specializes in appeals and I told him that I would love to see him in action. A few hours later, he sent me an e-mail and suggested that I might want to attend another partner's argument that was coming up soon. About a month later, we learned the date would be February 29th, and the partner confirmed that I could have a reserved seat. Of course the day arrives and it is raining cats and dogs. Usually when it's raining like crazy, I avoid going out and about town, but not today.

I drove in early that morning and I joined the secretary of the partner who was going to argue and we took a cab ride over to the Supreme Court building. We had been told that we should not stand in the long line out in front where the general public goes. Instead, we were encouraged to go around to the left side of the building, tell them we have reserved seats and ask to see “the Marshalls”.

We made our way inside, we made it through the security detector and then we were directed to a room full of small lockers. We put our coats and the wet umbrella in a locker and then we proceeded down the hall in the direction where they pointed. At the end of the hall, we were asked our name and they had to locate our name in a log book. At first they couldn't find my name under Bowser, so my friend suggested they look under Rollins and there it was. Whew!

There was another security detector right before the entrance and then we were escorted to an available seat. We were seated where I've marked the photo with a red arrow in the photo below.  Not bad! In the end, all of the general public were seated way in the back on individual chairs. I felt very close to the action.

I could see our two partners at the counsels' table on the left. One of our associates was standing with them. He actually had to wait until he was sworn in that morning before he could take his place at the table.

At 9:50am, there was an announcement to the audience that during the session we were to be still and silent. She said it 3 times in a row — “you must be still and silent“. About 10 minutes later, a chime rang, we were instructed to stand and the justices started making their way into the room. I was in awe. I hear about these individuals in the news or in passing conversations, but to be in the same room with them was an awesome feeling. The room as a whole was amazing and the ceiling was beautiful. I felt so lucky to have this opportunity.

The serious business started right away. Our partner started his argument and was almost immediately interrupted with questions from the justices. They went back and forth for about 35 minutes. The respondent's counsel began his argument and was also interrupted right away with a bunch of questions and back and forth. Some of our clients had flown in to attend and they sat in the row in front of us.

About one hour and 10 minutes later, the Chief Justice said you're out of time, we were asked to stand and all of the justices left the room. We were encouraged to leave the room right away.

Earlier that morning, I had sent a text message to one of the associates that used to work at our firm for about a year before he left to do one year of service at the Supreme Court working as a clerk for Justice Sotomayor. He was able to find me and I got to ask him some of my questions. It was good to see him.

They do a good job of shuffling everyone out of the building afterwards. There were a lot of people there including a bunch of kids on a field trip. It was raining even harder when we left and we all got soaked getting to a cab, but it was worth it. Perhaps a once in a lifetime experience and one that many people never get the opportunity to experience. I feel very grateful.

We have to wait until June-ish to hear if we won. Here is a link to a USA Today article published after the argument. Mark Stancil is the partner who argued that day. He is an instructor for the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic.  Below is a video of him speaking at the University of Virginia about the clinic.


  1. What a great experience Amy!!!!!   Thanks for sharing this, I really enjoyed it.

  2. Thanks for sharing this, it sounds like a great experience for anyone who works in the law.  But you didn’t say anything about what the arguments were.  I’m sure it would have made it a much longer post, but I can’t help be curious.  11-161 ARMOUR V. CITY OF  INDIANAPOLIS?

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