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The Supreme Court of the United States of America

On Behalf of | Dec 9, 2012 | International Family Law

I can now end my self-imposed silence.  I’m sure it sounds paranoid but there was nothing to be gained in telling the world through this very public blog what we were doing to prepare and prevail before the Supreme Court of the United States. When you get to this level, you can be certain that more than friends are looking over your shoulder.

I won’t use tonight’s blog entry to set out everything that we did and all the experiences I had in preparing and delivering my argument in the most intense legal experience of my life.  That would take too long for one blog entry.  But I do want to dive right in to provide some report on the great day itself.

Ours was the only argument for the day and the last argument for the Court in December.  I arrived at 9:00, an hour before the appointed hour.  As arguing counsel, I was taken to the daily briefing in the attorneys’ lounge, just outside the Great Hall which leads to the Courtroom.  The lounge is not large; it seats about 30 attorneys.  It was suitably decorated with 14 foot ceilings, deep, rich wood paneling and well appointed with fine portraits of great jurists and lawyers. A particular sculpture I recall was of Daniel Webster.  At that moment, the only persons in attendance were the day’s arguing counsel and the other attorneys involved in Petitioner’s and Respondent’s case.  The Marshalls had also invited Shelia and our youngest son, with whom they were greatly taken (for good reason). The Marshalls handed us our passes, covered the day’s agenda (no opinions announced, a few Bar admissions) and addressed the do’s and don’ts in appearing before the Justices.  The Marshalls looked dapper in their morning coats and pin-stripe pants. They were amiable, at times even jovial.  They made an effort to make us feel comfortable and help us de-stress until the appointed hour when we were escorted into the Courtroom itself.  

By the time we entered, with approximately 15 minutes to go, the Courtroom had already been opened to the Supreme Court Bar and the public.  The gallery was filled to capacity.  We filed in like gladiators to the pit, perhaps more fittingly like lambs to the slaughter.  The low rise bench with nine elegant, expecting chairs stretched before us.  The podium, not ten feet from the Chief Justice’s chair, opulent with its ornate carvings and wooden hand crank, beckoned us give voice to our argument. Counsel tables immediate to either side, two across and two deep, close together, finished the intimacy of that large chamber.  

And there it sat, once fabled yet now very real, awaited me, a gift from the Supreme Court to me, for the priviledge of arguing before the highest court in our land: a quill.  A perfectly hand cut quill suitable and ready for use with any inkwell on any parchment.  But, as I would later be told, not actually to be used because they break easily, better to rest in a suitable place of honor and discretion to remind one of that precious moment in time.  (I hadn’t planned to take up writing with quills anyway.)

To the immediate right of the podium sat my chair.  Regular readers of this blog will recall how much I like good chairs.  This one did not disappoint.  To my right sat Professor Bibos who had been instrumental in helping us write the Brief, the Reply Brief and helping me prepare for this argument.  To his right sat Ms. Saharsky, an Assistant United States Solicitor General, arguing in assistance of our position on behalf of the United States Government.

As the 10:00 hour approached, we took our seats and awaited the arrival of the Justices.

(to be continued)

Michael Manely