On Wednesday, Annie and I visited the Supreme Court. Although I have studied, filed briefs in, written about, and generally gushed over the Court for eleven years, it was my first visit to the place that has enormously impacted my life. I was kind of nervous that the Court could not possibly live up to my exaggerated expectations, but it did. When I saw the marble pillars, I gripped Annie’s hand a little harder as we walked to the entrance.
When we were seated in the courtroom I observed two things that were a bit surprising. First, the courtroom is smaller than I had pictured in my mind. Second, the lectern used by arguing counsel is only about 15 to 20 feet from the Justices. This dynamic positioning makes for a very intimate setting. Counsel truly is arguing their case face-to-face with the Court.
Seth Waxman and Penn Professor Stephanos Bibas were both adept at answering questions in short bursts in between their main points. It was like a semi-orchestrated play complete with entertaining characters—like Justices Scalia and Breyer arguing about which one of their questions counsel should answer first.
I must admit, I am now completely hooked. Some people possess a cult-like devotion to a favorite NFL team or each week’s Bachelor episodes, for me it is the place with the funny acronym: SCOTUS.
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On Tuesday, Annie and I visited the University of Virginia law school. I spoke about my “non-traditional” path to studying law, federal sentencing actual innocence claims and about my experiences dealing with the U.S. Supreme Court. The students there were engaging, and we enjoyed visiting the law school. Special thanks to Allison Harnack, Deirdre Enright, and Matthew Engle of the UVA Innocence Clinic for inviting us and for the positive impact they have on the wrongly convicted.