My Supreme Court Cotillion

March 23rd, 2016

One of my first blog posts in October 2009, immediately after I passed the Virginia Bar, started a count-down till my eligibility for admission to the Supreme Court Bar. In that post, I wrote, “I am seriously considering skipping the swearing ceremony in Richmond, but I will not miss my debut at 1 First St. NE.” I indeed did skip the swearing ceremony in Richmond, which, alas delayed my SCOTUS bar-admission.

As I noted in a December 2012 post, in order to be eligible for the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States, I had to first be a member of the Supreme Court of Virginia for three years. In one of the quirks of the Old Dominion, being a member of the Virginia Bar is separate and apart from being a member of the Commonwealth’s highest court. So in December 2012, I was (finally) sworn into the Supreme Court of Virginia Bar in a ceremony in Richmond. That started the ultimate three year clock, which allowed me to (finally) apply for the SCOTUS bar in December 2015. (And if you are curious, I mailed in my application on the exact date I was allowed to). Randy Barnett and Ilya Shapiro were my two sponsors.

The swearing in, or as I call it, my SCOTUS Cotillion, took less time than the Texas Dip. The Chief Justice called on Ilya to read a prepared script. Once Ilya said my name, I stood up. The Chief then granted the motion, and I sat down. After all of the motions for admission were granted, the Chief asked us to stand again. The Clerk administered the oath while holding a Bible. I said “I do.” And then sat down. It happens really fast. I could’ve sworn Justice Kagan smiled at me when Roberts said my name, but it could have been a hallucination from the Frozen Yogurt in the cafeteria.

But now it’s over, and I am a member of the Bar. What does this get me? I can now use the Bar line, and leave my stuff in the lawyer’s lounge, rather than frantically searching for quarters.

Thankfully, I was able to schedule my swearing-in for the same day as Zubik v. Burwell, which gave me a guaranteed seat about 3 feet from the Petitioner’s counsel table. I was so close I could see Paul Clement’s zen-like aura as he prepared for arguments. I was also sitting immediately adjacent to the press section, a few feet from Nina Totenberg as she kibitzed about her recent interview with POTUS. Lyle Denniston, who relishes in ribbing me for my age, asked if they let 18-year-olds enter the Bar. Though, there was one downside to being up front. I was so close to the bench that I could not see Justice Ginsburg unless I sat up high in my chair. During arguments, I could only hear a disembodied voice. It is still jarring to see the Bench without Justice Scalia up there. Especially during today’s arguments, I really missed his presence.


Update: And, as proof that I was at the Court, I made the official Art Lien sketch. I am in the first row, second from the left.

ACA contraception arguments, Paul Clement at lectern for petitioners.

ACA contraception arguments, Paul Clement at lectern for petitioners.

And Mark Walsh noted it in his View from the Court:

As usual, bar admissions are the first order of the day, and today’s admittees include a member of Congress, Rep. Keith Rothfus, a Republican from Pennsylvania. His presence may be explained by the fact that he is from the Pittsburgh area and has a law degree from the University of Notre Dame, which had challenged the contraceptive mandate in an earlier case. He also gets a really good, front-row seat in the bar section.

Seated with Rep. Rothfus is Rep. Louie Gohmert, Republican of Texas, who is not being sworn in today but, oddly, is in the section with those who are.

Barely a half-hour into the argument, a Court aide will inform Rothfus that there is a pending vote for which is presence is sought, and he will depart. Rep. Gohmert does not leave.

Also being sworn into the Supreme Court Bar today is Josh Blackman, an associate law professor at South Texas College of Law in Houston, and a frequent commentator on the work of the Court, particularly on the Affordable Care Act cases. (And his blog points out that today is the sixth anniversary of the day the president signed the ACA into law.)