The 2009 session of the Supreme Court of the United States, or SCOTUS for short, began with a case argued by Maryland’s Attorney General and a Maryland Public Defender. Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler and Assistant Public Defender Celia Anderson Davis had the distinction to be the first case heard this year before the nine justices on a case involving a defendant’s constitutional rights to his right to counsel, after they were invoked more than two years before the questioning.
Two days later, I am in the Supreme Court, eating bacon, eggs, and home fries before my first time before the nine justices that sit on the nation’s highest court. Let me clarify, I am not there to argue. I don’t think I would have been able to eat anything, less a meal that included crispy, cooked to perfection bacon. I am there as part of a group of Maryland lawyers (through the Baltimore County Bar Association), to be admitted to practice in the Supreme Court. I know what you are thinking — What are the odds that Michael Siri will ever have a case before the Supreme Court? My answer — most likely never, but the trip and the experience is certainly worth the time and expense.
On the day of the swearing in, we arrive at the the Supreme Court, eat breakfast, meet Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (who will move our admission into the Court), and we are then whisked away into the courtroom. Our seats are less than 10 feet from the trial tables and 20 feet from the bench. Unlike my experience with other courts, the Justices take the bench at exactly 10:00 a.m., the time we are told everything will start. The atmosphere is surreal, the place is packed (I eye Nina Totenberg from NPR in the press box) and suddenly court is in session. We are quickly admitted as members of SCOTUS and the real fun begins — oral arguments.
We know we are going to hear Salazar v. Buono, which asks whether a cross erected as a memorial within a California national park is constitutional, and one of the hottest cases before the Court this year. We have all heard about the demeanor of the justices and the precision in which they craft their questions. It is another thing to actually be there and watch. All in all, it’s one of those days that makes you feel good about being an attorney. My advice to any young lawyer — gain admission to the SCOTUS, if not only for the experience, but for the breakfast.