Why the Supreme Court Belongs on Every D.C. Bucket List

Posted on Sunday, Jul 01, 2018

Have you ever wondered how nine people in one small room could change the course of an entire nation, and even the world? The Supreme Court and its justices have fundamentally altered the fabric of the United States from their chambers in Washington D.C. for over 200 years. To witness the Court read an opinion in person is to witness the judiciary perform its integral role in American democracy, an opportunity I was fortunate enough to have during my summer in D.C.

My study of the judicial branch and the Supreme Court was a major factor in my decision to spend the summer in Washington. No cameras or recording equipment are allowed in the chamber, adding to the aura and mystique of the highest court in the land. The nine high-backed chairs stationed in front of vast velvet curtains have been filled by luminaries in American legal thought and jurisprudence for decades.

The ornate courtroom has echoed with decrees that ended segregation, defended free speech, and established Miranda rights. Hearing the Chief Justice of the United States deliver an opinion is a remarkable experience simply because it is an opportunity to witness the formation of the law of the land.

I had the chance to hear Chief Justice Roberts deliver the opinion of the Court in Carpenter v. United States, a landmark case that inspired fierce debate about the extent to which the Fourth Amendment applies to cell phone location data. I arrived over two hours early to take my spot in line as one of the 50 people that would be admitted to the courtroom.

The gallery sat silently in awestruck silence and respect as the Chief Justice opined that law enforcement agencies should be required to obtain search warrants before accessing cell service location information, thus preventing obtrusive government surveillance. What was a hotly contested legal question when I entered the courtroom at 8:00 a.m. had become unquestionable law when I walked down the marble steps two hours later. To see my professional and ethical heroes perform their all-important public service was truly the highlight of my summer.

What are your thoughts on the role the Supreme Court has to play in an increasingly modernized United States?

Connall McCormack
Senate Republican Conference (summer I) | Office of Senator John Cornyn (summer II)
Washington, D.C. | summer 2018