An Audience at the Supreme Court
Danny Stock
On the week Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg returned to the bench, GDS High School students studying constitutional law visited the Supreme Court to hear oral arguments during the GDS snow day. They also had a private audience with Justice Stephen Breyer. Upon their return, students described experiencing a blend of the impressive stateliness of the institution and also the truly human side of its functioning.

“It was incredible to experience the proceedings of the Court firsthand,” said Ariella Cymerman ’19.

“I had plenty of prior knowledge from class about the court and how the system works before I heard oral arguments, which was very helpful,” said Sophie Schiff ’20. “I was able to see some of the most powerful people in our country, which was amazing and a very special experience.”

Ariella added, “Hearing the traditional "oyez, oyez, oyez" upon the justices' entry was remarkable as well.”

During oral arguments, students had the chance to see justices interacting with each other and with counsel. “It was so interesting to see the justices in action,” noted Annalise Myre ’19. “Justice Kavanaugh would lean over to whisper to Justice Kagan, and Justice Breyer warmly smiled at Justice Sotomayor after she asked a question. It was clear from their interactions that they all have special relationships even though they may disagree at times.”

“I especially loved hearing the manner in which the justices were interrupting the counsel,” Ariella added.

When students met with Justice Breyer, Annalise asked if he follows potential Supreme Court cases in the news as they develop. “Justice Breyer said that he sometimes looks at the headlines, but that he prefers to wait until the case comes before him so he can have all of the facts before forming an opinion. It is striking that in a never-ending news cycle and such tumultuous times, Justice Breyer strives to remain fair-minded and neutral.”

In the next few weeks, students will also meet with the solicitor general of the United States, Noel Francisco, and separately with Court of Appeals Judge Pamela Harris (parent of Ellen Schlick ’19 and alum Henry Schlick ’17), thanks to the planning and outreach of constitutional law (and math) teacher Andy Lipps.

GDS’s proximity to the District and connections to our extraordinary parent, grandparent, and alumni bodies allows our students to learn actively through community engagement, exploration of monuments and the Smithsonian Institutes, and trips like Hill Day or this one at the seat of our federal government.

In reflection, Ariella wrote, “Being able to spend a morning at the Supreme Court—and, more specifically, a meeting with Justice Breyer—was a special opportunity that allowed me to tangibly interact with what we have discussed about the Supreme Court in class. It was truly a memorable day!”
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