"I had but the last few days in DC to study, to write and re-write
and to wait for the pinnacle experience of my profession." (From Part IV)
The weekend was a blur. I'm not sure what we did as a family, but I
spent much time walking, pondering, arguing and responding in my head.
On Monday and Tuesday, following the advice from the Georgetown professors,
I attended the Court's arguments. The Courtroom is huge and ornate.
The ceiling seemed as tall as the heavens. Yet the Justices' bench
was right there, in the room, yes, but accessible, personal. And they
were not sitting high above the room but barely above the seating, just barely.
The pomp and ceremony was auspicious. The Marshalls in morning coats, "Oyez"
calling the Court to Order. The arguments were fast and furious, parries,
thrusts, excellent, nuanced argument imbued in the subtleties that make
or break our nations laws. I left both sessions invigorated, humbled and
further resolved in my approach.
Finally the big day came, Wednesday, December 5, 2012. The last day of
the October term. We were the last case of the term and the only case
on for the day. Shelia, Ben and I arrived at around 8:30. The Marshalls
took us, yes us, to the Attorney's lounge (where only attorneys admitted
to the Supreme Court may enter) for our briefing. The Marshal was very
gracious. Ben was very honored.
As the 10:00 hour approached I didn't know if I felt more like a man
waiting to meet the King and Queen, or a condemned man soon to be escorted
to the Chair. Maybe this is what the guys in the show felt like just before
they stepped out onto that green diamond to play the World Series, except
I had never done it before and there weren't eight team mates ready
to take the field with me. The Solicitor General, Ms. Saharsky, was not
in that room and Professor Bibas, though in attendance and certainly a
nice man, was not one of my own. My peeps were not here. At this moment
they were far away, hoping, praying, drinking copious quantities of coffee
and waiting for some word.
It was time to go. We queued up, my opposing counsel, our entourage and
I. (There must always be a queue, it seems. We stood for a few moments
and then began our processional into the great chamber. The gallery was
already full to overflowing. All eyes fell upon us, the gladiators, as
we walked through the gallery, approached and passed through the Bar,
the Bar itself, the mother of all Bars, and took our places there, before
the bench that within minutes would seat the most powerful judges in the world.
The Supreme Court gives those who argue before it a gift, a hand cut white
quill pen. One was waiting for me at my desk. I picked it up. I admired
the fine point of the quill. "Hand cut," I remembered. I would
have wiped a moist eye, but as God is my witness, I had long before decided
that I was going to go stark raving mad if I let anxiety or any emotion
except dedication of purpose enter my consciousness. Today, this moment,
I was all business. And that felt powerful.
Soon, even soon enough, the Marshal called the Court room to Order. "The
Honorable Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court
of the United States. Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before
the Honorable Supreme Court of the United States are admonished to draw
near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God save
the United States and this Honorable Court" The Justices entered
from behind the red drapes and slowly and with great courtesy to each
other, took their seats.
Our case was called. Mr. Chief Justice John Roberts called my name. He
called it correctly. (He had gone to great effort to make sure he pronounced
it correctly in the briefing, such is the level of their courtesy.) I
rose to the podium.
As I wrote, the room is vast but standing there at the podium, the room
is intimate, personal. The Chief Justice was eye to eye with me not ten
feet away. The other Justices were also close, accessible, present.
"May it please the Court..." I began. I will spare you the argument
itself here. The argument in all its glory and ignominy is safely enshrined
on line at the
Oyez website for your listening pleasure. It took me well over a month before I could
listen to it, such was the depth of my emotional repression leading up
to the argument.
I think I did well. I followed my plan to listen to the Justice's questions
and not get lost in my own agenda of forcing what I thought they needed
to know down their throats. I tried to answer them earnestly and candidly.
Justice Sotomayor, the most knowledgable Justice in Hague matters was
clearly helping me. She has my undying gratitude. Justice Scalia toyed
with me a bit, but it was good. Justice Ginsburg was the only Justice
who I really didn't feel I satisfied, which was perturbing because
I always agree with her opinions.
Then is was Ms. Saharsky's turn. She was excellent. She was crisp.
She held to the government's position and managed the Justice's
questions quite well. I knew she would. I never feared her performance.
Then it was Opposing Counsel's turn. He was in trouble almost immediately
out of the box. It seemed he disagreed with everything the Justices said.
He wanted them to ignore the Constitution because of the word "forthwith"
in the treaty. When Justice Kagan said she didn't understand his argument,
I knew he was down for the count. When she gave him two options for his
argument and he said his argument was neither, I knew that the game was
over. Turn out the lights.
I had four minutes of rebuttal which was just enough time for two questions.
I finished strong with a response to the Chief Justice, and then it was
all over. The Chief Justice said that the case was submitted. The Justices
rose and quietly, slowly, left the room.
That was it. The pinnacle moment was done. I was euphoric. Not because
I was done but because I could tell that the Justices really cared, they
were involved. They knew the case; they knew the issues. They wanted to
get it right. I had a meaningful dialogue, a conversation with the Justices
of the Supreme Court!
That I stayed upright from the moment the Justices left the room until
the end of the day mystifies me still. There were congratulations all
around, except from Opposing Counsel who was gone before I knew it. Much
of the folks in the gallery stayed on to talk. But proudest of all was
that my 10 year old, Benjamin, got to watch me argue before the Supreme
Court of the United States. A memory not often offered but hopefully long
remembered. I gave Ben the Supreme Court's quill.
Outside, as pictures were taken and the press readied to plum the depths
of our sentiment on the morning's proceedings, Sgt. Chafin turned
to me with a tear in his eye. He said that he had told Eris he would do
everything within in his power to move heaven and earth to protect her
and get her back to her home in the US. Today, he said, he felt like he
had lived up to that promise. As I write this, that still gets to me.
Now, it is three months since the argument and almost one month since the
unanimous decision. Oh, I didn't mention that? On Tuesday, February
19, all nine Justices found us. All nine! We couldn't have been more
right. They couldn't have been more in support. A unanimous decision
is not unprecedented, but it doesn't happen often, either.
Anyway, it has been three months since the argument and almost a month
since the decision and I think I might, just now, be getting somewhat
back to normal. I saved the nervous breakdown until after the argument.
I love my family for putting up with me through those times. I thank my
firm for having my back and helping me achieve this incredible victory.
I honor the many, many people from my alma mater,
Georgia State University College of Law,
Georgetown University College of Law and particularly
University of Pennsylvania Law School for their work on the briefs, and the law firm of
Paul Hastings, particularly Lisa Nowlin, who invested their time and their energies
into creating this fantastic outcome. They know and I know I could not
have done it without them.
But now I am home. And there is work to be done. Much work. Good work.
And I am eager to do it!