The Supreme Court and its nine Justices, in the past, have insulated themselves from public life. Only in recent years have the nation’s top jurists become more public accepting speaking engagements, taking on teaching assignments, and writing books. Court policy still bans television cameras from covering the 75 or so public oral arguments scheduled for each court term. In addition, the Justices always refrain from discussing prior cases and issues that come before the Court. In 2009, the television network, C-SPAN, interviewed all the current and retired Supreme Court Justices as well as various Court experts, putting together a book, The Supreme Court edited by Brian Lamb, Susan Swain, and Mark Farkas.
The primary duty of the Supreme Court Justices is to participate in the collective decisions of the Court determining which cases to hear, deciding cases, and writing and contributing to opinions. Key aspects of these tasks are done through oral argument and the weekly conference. At oral argument the lawyer on each side of an issue is given 30 minutes to present his/her case and is likely to be continually probed by questions from the Justices. In the weekly conference, each justice states his or her view on the cases that they have just heard in oral argument and how he or she votes on each case. The conference also is the occasion at which the justices discuss and vote on future cases that they will hear; four positive votes are required for the Court to hear a case. At these weekly conferences, it is the Chief Justice who sets the agenda and speaks first, Discussion is done in order of seniority, however, the most junior justice votes first.
Please read one of the following interview I have selected: the one with the one with Historian James B. O’Hara, who primarily discusses the Supreme Court building, and answer the question (listed below) that pertain to that interview. Your paper must be two to three pages in length, double-spaced, in 12-point type using a Times or Times New Roman font.
Questions Based on the Interview with Supreme Court Historian, James B. O’Hara
1. Who is the only U.S. President who served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court? Describe the role of this Chief Justice in getting the Supreme Court building built?
2. What problems did the Court have when it used an area of the basement of the Capitol building (Congress) for the Supreme Court Chamber?
3. How does historian O’Hara describe how different Justices approach oral argument?