October 3 marked an important day in the justice system, and I’m not talking about the decision for Amanda Knox. It rang in the opening of the October 2011 session of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), our nation’s highest and most influential court. While there is never a SCOTUS session that goes by without controversy and cases that impact all Americans, the focus of the latest term is clearly centered on the beast that is Health Care Reform. A host of challenges to President Obama’s health care legislation will be heard this term, along with some other eye opening issues, including a challenge by broadcasters over the reach of the FCC, questions of immigration and police surveillance limits.
Inside the Hallowed Chamber
Along with Spectrum colleagues, I had the pleasure of attending opening day arguments from inside the Supreme Court. Once I got over the grandeur of the building, I had an eye opening experience witnessing the court in session. The last time I was in a courtroom was to be sworn in as an American citizen, so it was particularly poignant to see one of our nation’s three pillars of government in action.
As the counsel approached the bench for oral arguments, I could sense that even for the most experienced attorney this moment must feel like the World Series, Super Bowl and World Cup Final rolled into one. To look at the nine Justices, the most educated and respected in all the land, they gave the air of, at times, being annoyed that someone would dare challenge their Court’s past judgment, while at others nonplused by the whole situation, lolling in their high-backed leather chairs.
With each probing question, however, it was abundantly clear that they are each thoroughly engaged – even Justice Thomas who has not spoken in oral arguments for more than five years – and knowledgeable on every intricate aspect of not only the case at hand, but the annals of historical prescient, Constitutional implications and the impact their ruling will have on all Americans.
Influencing Our Nation
Every ruling hangs on a knife edge that could reposition our nation’s laws, mold interpretations to the Constitution and impact the day-to-day lives of every American. Health care reform, and indeed the 2012 Presidential race, could hinge on the rulings of key cases in the term, including the first case to be heard, Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California. With rulings generally announced following the end of the term, it will be some time before the decisions are known. Every American should be watching the court closely, be that through the media – including this blog – or if the opportunity arises, from the gallery inside 1 First Street.