Washington, D.C., part 2: Choosing the SCOTUS arguments and when to arrive

(Just started reading? See part 1.)

If I was to combine a trip with a visit to family for Easter, I was limited to arguments in April. One sitting stood out as particularly interesting: the April 18 sitting in which Tapia v. United States and Microsoft v. i4i Limited Partnership would be argued. Tapia concerned the permissibility of considering in-prison rehabilitative programs during sentencing — not an issue of particular interest to me. But Microsoft concerned patents, which are certainly relevant to anyone in the software industry. It made a good fit: my weekend was chosen.

The US Capitol at night from Constitution Avenue, northeast of Capitol Hill
02:17: The Capitol as seen on the walk to the Court

Supreme Court oral arguments are open to anyone who arrives “early enough”, which depends on the interest level of the cases being argued. Tapia, as a sentencing case not touching a contentious issue like the death penalty, was low-interest. But “the showcase intellectual property case of the year” might well draw a moderate crowd. And I knew from a Mozillian who’d attended Bilski v. Kappos, the last major patent case before the Court, that arriving at 22:00 the day before a patent case could be good for a spot near the end of public seating. (Huge caveat: the other arguments that day concerned juvenile life imprisonment without possibility of parole.)

The Capitol dome
02:18: The Capitol dome

Based on one suggestion of 05:00 for “mid-major” cases (which I suspected Microsoft to be) and the effort I was making just to get to D.C., I decided to err heavily on the side of caution by waking up at 1:00. I would take a shower, get dressed in a suit purchased Friday (Visa flagged it as a fraudulent transaction, and I think they were on to something), and walk forty minutes to the Supreme Court. Better to get less sleep but be guaranteed to see the argument than to gamble and lose after making such an effort to even have a chance to see it.

The Capitol dome and the south wing of the Capitol building
02:34: The Capitol from the east, between it and the Supreme Court

Next time: sitting in line for the arguments.


Washington, D.C., part 1: Bobbleheads!

Among my various eccentricities, I subscribe to the Green Bag, an entertaining journal of law (I read about equally for entertainment and for interesting knowledge) which occasionally produces extra gifts, such as Supreme Court justice bobbleheads, for its subscribers. If the Green Bag sends you a certificate, you might (they qualify to the hilt any possibility you might get anything other than the subscription) be able to go to George Mason University just outside Washington, D.C. and exchange it for some number of bobbleheads. (Or have a proxy do it, but that has its own problems.)

A few months ago the Green Bag sent me a certificate potentially good for bobbleheads. I live on the west coast, so how was I to redeem it? I’m not crazy enough to fly across the country just for bobbleheads (even Supreme Court bobbleheads!). But if I planned it right, I could combine a trip with one to visit family for Easter, economizing the number of long-distance flights I’d take doing both trips. It was enough justification for me to visit D.C. from April 15 to April 19.

John Jay, John Rutledge, William Cushing, James Wilson bobbleheads
John Jay, John Rutledge, William Cushing, James Wilson: the four senior members of the first Supreme Court

I’m not much of a tourist, so I didn’t visit museums or do much traditional exploration in D.C. (I also planned to work most of Friday and Monday while visiting, a plan mostly-successfully executed from a couple Starbucks.) I caught up with a couple friends (Mozillians may remember Joey Minta of calendar, Thunderbird, and kill-rdf fame, now working at a D.C. law firm) and attempted to catch a game of ultimate on the National Mall that got foreclosed by rain. I also tried to sample area cuisine: Five Guys (NB: they’re in Sunnyvale now!), Founding Farmers, Potbellys (not especially local to D.C., but I’d never seen them before), and Momiji Restaurant (the Asian pear martini was quite tasty).

But most specially, I went to a sitting of the Supreme Court and watched two oral arguments. More on that over the next several days, starting with which cases to attend and when to arrive.

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