IFTI – a new category

Yes, I’m making a new category.  Why?  Because although it might get frustrating that I don’t have all the time in the world to devote to thinking all issues through as well as they deserve, nor enough time to comment thoroughly on others’ comments, I have greatly enjoyed the mind-stretching aspect of politics in my life recently.  Even including those with vastly different opinions, and even when such opinions include name-calling.  (A post still unwritten is titled, “I love you anyway” and is dedicated to my anti-8 commenters.)

SO.  This is post #1 in the “I Found This Interesting” category.  Written by Earl Taylor, Jr, of the National Center for Constitutional Studies.

“I’ve never heard of those eleven kinds of cases”

One of our favorite places to visit is the Supreme Court. If the Court is not in session, we take our scholars right into the chamber of the Court itself. Here, along with others who have waited for the tour, we enter the inner chamber and immediately begin to appreciate the beauty and symbolism of this building. The docent welcomed us and proceeded to give about a 20-minute lecture about what happens in this room. She explained the seating arrangements, the procedures of the court, and some of the symbols in the room, including the freezes on the walls high above. Especially impressive are the rays of “streaming inspiration” which, she explains, are representative of the divine wisdom necessary for good law. She also points out, among other lawgivers of history, the figure of Moses holding the tablets upon which are written the Ten Commandments.

It was interesting to hear that nearly 10,000 cases are appealed to this high court every year from lower federal courts and that one of the tasks of the justices is to decide which of the cases they will hear that year. The docent explained that it take four justices to decide to hear a case and that they can only hear approximately 200 out of the 10,000 submitted in any given year. At this point the lecturer asked if there were any questions. A few procedural questions were asked and then one of our scholars raised her hand and asked:

“The Constitution clearly outlines the eleven kinds of cases the federal courts are authorized to hear. Do the justices use these eleven kinds of cases as guidelines when they are deciding which few of the thousands of cases they will consider?”

I sat there in amazement that one of our scholars, without being coached beforehand, could formulate such a question, taking what was learned in the classroom and making a sincere inquiry as it applies in real life in that courtroom. I sat anxiously awaiting the presenter’s answer.

The docent indicated she didn’t quite understand the question and asked our scholar to repeat it, which she did. The presenter then said:

“I really don’t know of those guidelines in the Constitution and I don’t think anything like that is considered here when deciding which cases are to be taken.”

She further said, “I don’t think anyone here even talks about that.”

She then added, “You know, I don’t remember even studying about that when I took civics in school.”

This was one of those moments which drives a teaching point home with such force that it needed no further comment from me. One scholar was over heard saying as he left the court chamber, “They don’t even use the Constitution in this room?”

Anita here: SIgh.  I’m hoping that the ignorance clearly illustrated was actually on the part of the docent, and not our Supreme Court Justices.


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