Witnessing History at The Supreme Court

Those of us who love history are usually only able to experience it through books, movies or television. I had an opportunity to be an eyewitness last night here in Washington, D.C. Early in the day I watched the arrival of the hearse bearing the casket of Justice Antonin Scalia at the Supreme Court on television with my wife. She said at the time that being lawyers we should go to the Supreme Court to pay our respects. As with what happens to most of us, our day began to slip away and we had not found time to travel up to Capitol Hill to the Court. Mid-afternoon a dear friend called and asked if we would accompany her to a movie. The movie turned out to be “Race” the new release about Jesse Owens, the great Olympian. The painful history of race relations in the U.S. were contrasted with the ghastly specter of Nazi racism. It is an uplifting movie, but not always easy to watch.

When the movie was over it was dark and quite cold. As we walked back to the house my wife said, “Let’s go to the Court.” It was already 6:30 and since the movie house is only two blocks from our house we hadn’t really dress warmly. There was a momentary urge in me to just bag it. The Supreme Court was scheduled to close at eight o’clock and was 25 minutes away by cab. Better instincts took over we jumped in a cab. When we arrived at the Court we saw that there was still a very long line going up the street beside the Court. We began searching for end of the line and to our dismay it simply went and went and went. We walked at least five long blocks before we found the end of the line. Every instinct in me said, “Wow, too cold and too late. Let’s go home.” But there was great comradery in the line and quickly we lost the will to leave. Two hours later (they extended to hours until 10:00) we were inside the Supreme Court. We made new friends. In two hours of blistering wind and cold our little cadre of line dwellers talked about everything in the world. Now you might think that the conversations would reflect the tone of the rhetoric of today’s political climate, but it did not. The collegial atmosphere among an extremely diverse group of citizens was refreshing. It was clear that there was a wide spectrum of political opinions represented, but we were a group of citizens united in our quest to pay homage to a man who had served his country and to reaffirm the institution that is the Supreme Court. One side note is that there was a pronounced absence of people texting and talking on their cell phones. We were talking to each other as humans. The politicians will battle over replacement of the Justice, but the government will survive. Why do I say that? Because of that line of Americans coming together as we always have in death and tragedy to reaffirm our form of government. Witnessing history gives you the opportunity to understand that concept better than any hour of MSNBC or Fox news. Don’t miss being a part of history. It will change you for the better.

Justice Scalia and the Destiny of Our Country

The passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is not an ancillary footnote to the history of the United States. The confluence of his death, the philosophical bent of the remaining eight justices and the raging political campaigns of the Republican and Democrat candidates for President has cast a spotlight on the process of appointment of Supreme Court Justices and the Office of the President. One of the most long lasting actions a President takes is the appointment FOR LIFE of a Justice to the Supreme Court. Several Presidents have appointed Justices thinking they knew how they would lean in close cases only to be surprised. Earl Warren was appointed by President Dwight Eisenhower. The Warren Court became the anathema of many conservative thinking individuals.

I have always wondered about random moments in our lives that seem insignificant at the time, but later lead to a major life change. You turn left by accident and meet the love of your life. You turn right and you are run over by a truck. Did you have free will to turn left or right? I wonder if the United States is at one of those life-altering moments this morning as Justice Scalia lies in state at the Supreme Court building.

After initial outcries by Republican politicians that President Obama should not attempt to appoint Justice Scalia’s successor, a more reasoned rhetoric has surfaced. The terror of the Republican leadership was obviously fueled by fears that the President would appoint an liberal ideologue who would change the Court to an institution led by five “liberal” Justices that legislate our lives from the bench. Subsequently, the tone has softened a bit. The President announcing he would fulfill his duty to reappoint a Justice and the Republican Chairman of the Judiciary Committee saying the committee might hold hearing on a nominee could make for an interesting 2016.

I wonder about whether our are lives are predestined by a force beyond our ability to comprehend. I also wonder if our Country has a destiny. The spot light is on our political system and how it works. Are we destined to turn right or left or go a different direction altogether. Even if by some miracle the President nominates someone and the Senate confirms, there are no guarantees. Ask President Eisenhower about his appointment of Earl Warren if you see him. Finally, we must all watch this movie to its conclusion to find out how it ends. If there is a force that created this all before the earth was formed as the Bible says or its all just random I can’t say. It will however make this year of political theater one to anticipate.