Reflecting on the Supreme Court’s previous term (OT13) – Where were you?!?

SB was fortunate to be back in the SCOTUS the last two weeks of the Court’s October 2013 term. If you’ve been following us, you know last summer was our first experience with SCOTUS reporting access and gumption. Cut to this summer.  SB was better prepared for mayhem, but access inside was surprisingly easier and attention paid to the decisions seemed less focused and more manic. That struck us as weird and it’s the point of this post – You should’ve been paying closer attention to the cases this year.

Access was likely easier this year because OT13 didn’t have the hype and crowd that OT12 did. The crowd just wasn’t there outside or inside the Court, and public interest only piqued after the final decision (Hobby Lobby) was announced. Over the five days SB was inside, the two pews reserved for those with hard press passes never had more than 8-9 reporters in them and the press gallery was thin.

A few thoughts on why the lethargy this June. Last year may have had sexier cases, literally. Same-sex marriage cases put butts in seats. So did affirmative action and voting rights cases. Two famous bottoms were in Court seats on a Monday last summer awaiting decisions on any of the three decisions – Justices O’Connor and Stevens. Reporters were packed into the gallery cheap seats assigned their spots by security, and on the final day we were even relegated to sitting in the “intern” section (with my people).  

But that didn’t happen this year on the last day the Court was in session. Only two cases remained, one that was arguably the big case of the term – Hobby Lobby – and yet seats were readily available in the Court, the press office buzz was sedate, and the Court steps were still visible through the small group of pro-Life protestors outside. The press seemed to need the coveted access inside less. Many writers chose to stay in their cubicles inside the press office, were content listening to the audio piped into the basement of the Court, or were likely hanging out in the office following SCOTUSblog’s live feed. Another sign of a waning interest this term – There were less bespoke interns with wardrobes interrupted by gym shoes waiting in the press office to hustle out to their network.

So what happened this year?! We don’t know. Although they may have lacked the appeal of same-sex marriage, there were several other cases this term that answered questions more likely to affect the general public than same-sex marriage or birth control for Hobby Lobby employees. See if you can answer them:

  • Can you protest less than 35 feet away from an abortion clinics? (McCullen v. Coakley)
  • Can you buy a $12 antennae to watch and record another state’s local television channels? (ABC v. Aereo)
  • Can the president make an appointment when the Senate is in a session that feels and looks more like a recess? (NLRB v. Noel Canning)
  • Can opponents of the President be relocated farther away from a protest while supporters get to remain in their (closer) spot? (Wood v. Moss)
  • Can police search all the contents of your cell phone after a traffic violation? (Riley v. California)

If you want the answers to these questions, click on the case in parenthesis to get background details and the decision.

Perhaps those topics don’t have the high interest of same-sex marriage, which may be why OT13 just wasn’t as popular as last term. But with gay marriage cases running through the 6th, 9th, and 10th Circuits the audience may get their SCOTUS wish next term. Regardless, we all saw great hues and cries screamed across the social networks days after Hobby Lobby criticizing the Court for what they did or didn’t do with little bandwidth given to the other 69 cases decided this term. Although four cases do not paint an accurate portrait of what happened during one Supreme Court term, reducing this past term to one case would be worse! It’s unfair to the justices and, frankly, lazy of the citizenry.