This morning, I woke up early, put on a suit and tie, and walked to the Supreme Court, to watch two arguments: CLS v. Martinez and Ontario v. Quon. Thanks to a friend, currently clerking for the high court, I was able to skip to the front of a long line that stretched from the front doors, down the marble stairs, back and forth in front of the building.
Inside, I was ushered into the courtroom. It's bigger than I thought it would be, with an incredibly high ceiling, adorned with carved, painted flowers. Sculptured stone panoramas line the perimeter. By 9:35 a.m. ET, still 25 minutes before the first argument was scheduled to begin, the place was packed. I took a seat on a chair in the back of the room.
At 10:00 a.m. ET, not a second later, everyone stood, the nine justices emerged from behind red curtains, and took their seats. (The seats, by the way, look amazing. The chairs are covered with leather, with really tall backs. During the arguments, I kept getting distracted by how they swiveled, how far back they reclined.)
Everything ran on schedule. Having heard that it usually doesn't take too long for a justice to interrupt an attorney, I watched the large clock, hanging above the bench. Each time, it took 20 or 30 seconds before someone jumped in with a comment or a question.
We're planning to deal with the substance of one of the arguments, Ontario v. Quon tomorrow, so I won't even try to assess the case. But rest assured, even to a spectator like me, with no legal training, the case was really, really interesting.