At A Supreme Court Oral Argument

I’m glad people are paying attention to the arguments to the Supreme Court about the constitutionality of the health care law, and I think it’s great that some people waited in line for days to sit in the seats reserved for the general public.

I’ve had the privilege of watching oral argument to the Supreme Court on two occasions.  It is an awesome experience, from the long walk up the front steps and through the towering pillars to get into the building to the post-argument post mortem that begins as soon as the lawyers walk down those same front steps, debating the potential meaning of the questions posed by the Justices.  In the majestic chamber where arguments are presented, the Justices appear from behind a curtain to take their seats at the long bench, with the Chief Justice seated in the middle.  The lawyers present their positions, the members of the Court ask their probing hypotheticals — often jousting with each other in the guise of questioning the advocates — and the lawyers respond as best they can.  The entire process occurs with great dignity and solemnity, befitting the role of the highest court in the land.

After the arguments on the various legal issues presented by the health care law are concluded later this week, we’ll hear pundits talk about which side gave the better presentation, and we’ll know how the Court rules by the time its term ends in June.  For now, however, I hope people appreciate the marvelous nature of the process.  The fate of a hugely significant and hotly debated law will be decided by unelected judges based in part on oral arguments presented in measured tones in a quiet chamber that is open to all.

I wish more people went to see a Supreme Court argument when they visit Washington, D.C., because it tells you something very positive about our government and the central role of the rule of law in our country.