Day at the Supreme Court

On January 15, 2014, thirteen students from Prof. Arkes's American Constitution class at Amherst were treated to a full day of events structured around the workings of the Supreme Court. The day started with oral argument in the cases of McCullen v. Coakley and United States v. Castleman. Following the two cases, Dr. Matthew Spalding hosted the students for lunch at Hillsdale College's Kirby Center where they heard from two Hillsdale alumni who are clerks on the high court about their experience working for the justices. After lunch, students returned to the Court where Justice Samuel Alito addressed the group in a special session in the Court's elegant East Conference Room. Justice Alito spoke candidly, fielding questions on previous cases and about the institution itself. From the Court, the group went downtown to join Bert Rein '61 at his firm, Wiley Rein. Mr. Rein gave us an account of the Fisher case on racial preferences, which he argued--and won--during the last term. He drew upon cases that our students knew well, as he considered not only the substance of the argument, but also his strategy in arguing the case. The day concluded with a celebratory gathering of former students of Prof. Arkes who have gone on to careers in the legal world. The gathering was held at the Old Ebbitt Grill, a Washington fixture located near the White House. Joining us at dinner was Noel Francisco, who had argued the case on “recess appointments” (Noel Canning v. NLRB) just two days earlier. Noel had joined us in the past during these visits of Amherst students to Washington, and he was kind enough to come in now to give us a sense of the argument and how it all played out at the Court on Monday. From the immediate reactions of the students, it was a worthwhile and memorable experience.