Life And Death In A Box

For many, the highlight of their Memorial Day weekend was a social activity–gathering with friends for a barbecue or going to the beach with family members. For me, the highlight of the Memorial Day weekend was time travel. I opened two boxes sent to me by my cousin Jim containing personal effects of 1st Lt. Joseph A. Doyle, Jr. These items took me back to the 1940’s when my Uncle Joe went overseas to serve his country in World War II and never returned.

My uncle, a bomber pilot in the U.S. Army Air Force, gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country on April 28, 1945 when the plane he was piloting crashed. He was buried in a U.S. military cemetery in Italy. While Uncle Joe never returned home, his personal belongings did; they were sent to his parents back in South Carolina. My grandparents and all but one of Uncle Joe’s siblings have now died, and the family home is being prepared for sale. I offered to take my uncle’s things my cousin found in that that process for safekeeping.

Two boxes, one large and one small, containing the only tangible things left of a life cut short by war were sent to me.. Although I was eager to learn more about my uncle, a man I had never met, I was not sure how I would react to what I found. Moreover, I felt a huge responsibility possessing the boxes; a hero’s legacy was now in my hands.

The first box I opened, the smaller of the two boxes, contained a box wrapped in plastic. This was the “death box.” The aged box was the original box mailed to my grandfather, for whom my Uncle Joe was named. Inside was a U.S. flag. No note was found inside the box, at least as it was sent to me. The folded flag inside is aged; I was afraid to unfold it out of both fear and respect. This flag may have draped the casket containing my uncle’s remains or may simply have been  flown at the cemetery which serves as Uncle Joe’s final resting place.

What conflicting emotions my grandfather must have felt upon receiving and opening this box. Obviously, he would have been proud of his son’s service to his country. But as a parent, he must have been heartbroken to realize that what he held in his hands was all that was left of his hopes and dreams for his firstborn. War may have killed my uncle, but it also shattered the hearts of his family members.

The second box I opened was the “life box.”  It contained objects which help me to learn who my uncle was. Sure, he was a war hero, but he was a son, a sweetheart, and a young man. Clearly, Uncle Joe loved his family. In one aged photograph, a woman who bears a striking resemblance to my mother holds a baby. I believe this was my grandmother, “Mimi” as the grandchildren called her, with her firstborn, my Uncle Joe. Other photographs show a very pretty woman all dressed up and in a swimsuit (tame by today’s standards). No identification is on the back, but I am pretty sure that the woman is Uncle Joe’s sweetie, Sue.

A cigar box in the “life box” held military items such as Uncle Joe’s lieutenant bars and a military sewing kit. It also contained two wooden pipes. I picture military guys smoking cigarettes; a pipe seems sophisticated. Although I don’t smoke (and never have), I don’t begrudge my uncle that vice. If smoking a pipe gave him some comfort as he faced death on a daily basis, then who am I to criticize?

In his leisure time, Uncle Joe collected stamps. A booklet containing a stamp collection and a plethora of loose stamps were interspersed with the military items. Stamp collecting seems so normal. How could he even concentrate on such an activity with hell breaking loose all around him? Perhaps it took him away from the horrors of war if only for a short time.

Numerous letters and paperwork filled the life box. His faded flight records and his promotion order from second lieutenant to first lieutenant tell of his military activities in the months leading up to his death. A letter from the War Department documented that Uncle Joe was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with Three-Oak Clusters prior to his untimely demise. The former award was for his bravery in aerial flights against the enemy in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. These hazardous combat missions were “against vital targets deep in enemy occupied territory.”

Some of the letters were personal ones from his sweetie. He was endearingly referred to as “General” and “Sugarpants.” Serving his country meant that he was sent far away not only from his family but from a woman who loved him very much. His life and his future were taken from him at such a young age. Uncle Joe never got to marry, never got to have children, never got to see his numerous nieces and nephews, never got to finish college. He never got to return to his home and be hugged and welcomed by his mother.

Uncle Joe’s was just one in huge number of deaths resulting from World War II. War is indeed hell–both during the conflict and living with the losses afterwards. These losses are recognized by our country on a national holiday, Memorial Day. This holiday only comes around once a year, but for those who sacrificed all, that sacrifice took away every day for every year thereafter. Is it asking too much for Americans not to forget why we have this holiday? If you were able to enjoy a barbecue or a trip to the beach on Memorial Day, thank God for those who were willing to give their very lives in order to serve their country and ensure you could engage in those activities.

JUST WONDER-ing: Do you have a friend or a family member who gave his/her life in service to our country? If so, how did that loss affect you? What do you think is the best way to honor those have have made the ultimate sacrifice for us?

 

 

The Name Game

Names are in the news this month. Well, there are always names in the news, but what I’m referring to is the bestowing of names making headlines. Archie and Psalm won the baby boy name lottery.

In case you have been living under a rock, let me bring you up to speed. Prince Harry and his American wife, Meghan Markle, welcomed a baby boy to the royal family on May 6th. The bouncing bundle of blue joy, seventh in line to the throne right after his dad, was the subject of much pre-birth name speculation. The odds were heavily in favor of traditional names such as Philip, Arthur, and George. Nope. Surprise! Archie he is. Not Archibald, but Archie.

Back over in the former colonies, reality star royalty Kim Kardashian (of “KUWTK” fame) and her musical hubby, Kanye West, also welcomed a blue bundle of joy–child #4 for their growing brood. Their new son entered the world in an untraditional traditional way. A mother physically gave birth to him, but that mother wasn’t Kim; a surrogate was utilized. Despite this untraditional entry into the world, the baby was given a Biblical name, Psalm. Didn’t see that choice on the name radar, I’ll admit.

Whether in jolly old England or in the good ole U.S.A., parents face the daunting task of choosing a name for their offspring. If both mom and dad are in the picture, they have to agree on the name to be given. Mom may have her heart set on the name “Aurora” for her daughter, but dad may veto that choice.

While parents may not know what they should name their child, they are often quite sure of what they DON’T want to name their child. Names which evoke painful or negative feelings or memories are typically eliminated. For that reason Junior is unlikely to be named for mom’s ex-boyfriend. Parents also do not want to saddle their offspring with initials which are impolite or ugly. Adam Samuel Smith would be rejected as a name choice for just such a reason.

When uncertain of a choice, expectant/new parents often seek help. Baby books with jillions of possible names may be purchased, a baby name generator can be utilized on line, and the names of popular figures (fictional or real) may be considered. In the U.K. people often turn to the royal family for inspiration. Unsurprisingly, after the birth of Prince George and of Princess Charlotte, the popularity of those names soared. Since there’s no Archie I’m aware of in the British family tree, Meghan and Harry didn’t  rely on the royal family to provide the source for their son’s name.. Instead they looked to the commoners for inspiration. Archie is a popular baby boy name (in the top 20) in the U.K.

What parents choose for their baby’s name often reveals more about them than about their offspring. Sometimes what is revealed is a bit too much information for me. The names Lexus and Daiquiri might provide a clue as to how Junior came to be. A child bearing the name of a Game of Thrones character reveals his parent’s taste in TV fare. And, yes, such names are surging in popularity. A parent’s lack of knowledge can be made painfully clear by the name chosen for the new bundle of joy. If you don’t know what “meconium” means, then you probably shouldn’t name your child that. (Look it up if you don’t know.)

Naming a child after a family member is a common practice. I am a living example of that technique. I proudly bear the name of my paternal grandmother. When it came to naming my own children, I turned to my Irish heritage. I chose a good Irish name for my son that he shares with an IRA terrorist. Yikes! That made flying fun when Kevin was younger and had his name on some type of government watch list.

Parents have to take into account practical things when choosing a baby’s name. Will the child/his teacher/his friends be able to pronounce his name? Spell it? If there’s doubt, choose another name. Will the child be teased or bullied because of his name? Naming your daughter “Virgin Mary” (yes, I actually met a woman with that legal name) is a great way to ensure your daughter gets a lot of unwanted attention in middle school. And Ben Gay may be rubbed the wrong way by his moniker. Consider whether the name being considered can stand the test of time, i.e., will it make a good name for the child when she’s an adult? Bambi, Barbie, and Princess may seem cute for a tot, but does that name seem fitting for a doctor, lawyer, or president?

In some parts of the world, the task of naming a child is even more difficult–government approval of the name is required. Let’s take Denmark for example. Parents in that country are restricted to selecting a baby name from a list of 7,000 names the government has sanctioned. This list contains 4,000 girls’ names but only 3,000 boys’ names. Girls apparently require more clothes and more names from which to choose.

Some parents want their child’s name to be unique. This desire often runs into a wall with governments who have to approve these names. A creative Chinese couple ran into a proverbial Great Wall of China when they decided that “@” would be a super name for their son. The Chinese government did not agree; in fact, it will not allow symbols or numbers to be used in a name. Guess that means “#1 Son” is also a forbidden choice in China. Similarly, New Zealand has banned use of “4Real” and “V8.” No, really. The New Zealand mom could’ve had a V8 if the government approved. Guess she’ll just have to drink one now.

Unsurprisingly, Germany and New Zealand have each banned the name “Lucifer.” What a shame. Can you imagine a mom at a play group with her child telling the other mothers, “I’m having a devil of a time with my son, Lucifer?” In Japan, children cannot (at least officially) be named “Akuma” which means “devil.”

Even normal sounding names can be shot down by government censors. Take the seemingly innocuous name “Linda.” There will be no Linda’s born to Saudi Arabian parents. Apparently nothing screams Western decadence like the name “Linda.”

Although naming an addition to the family may seem like a fun task, it can be quite complicated. It’s the label your child starts out in life with and carries around with him (often like a millstone around his neck) as he grows up. Obviously parents like the name they chose, or it wouldn’t have been chosen. But will the child like his name? Let’s ask Archie and Psalm in about 16 years.

Just WONDER-ing: Do you like the name your parents gave you? Why was that name chosen? If you have a child, how did you go about selecting his/her given name?

 

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Forty Years Of Parenting Newborns

Florida Panhandle couple Chatt and Carol Johnson are hands on experts on newborn care. They have willingly and lovingly provided a home for 55 newborns over the course of 40 years serving as foster parents.

The Johnsons did not set out to be foster parents. Carol explains it was the Lord and the Air Force who led her to this work. The U.S. Air Force transferred Chatt from Virginia to Florida. Shortly after arriving in Florida, Carol was playing bridge with some squadron wives, one of whom happened to be a foster parent. She was heartbroken to learn from this woman that newborns were being sent out of Okaloosa County over to Pensacola because there were no foster homes available in the area.

Carol knew immediately that she wanted to be a foster parent, but that desire did not turn into a reality for two years. Chatt was initially reluctant to pursue fostering because he did not want his wife’s heart to be broken. But when a neighbor held a garage sale with lots of baby gear, that “flipped the switch” for Chatt. The couple underwent background investigations and health department inspections finally being approved to serve as foster parents for Catholic Social Services in 1979. Eleven years ago Chatt and Carol became foster parents for the State of Florida.

The Johnsons have only fostered newborns, and they only foster one baby at a time. As Carol explains, it is very difficult to find foster parents willing to provide such care. Having to get up for 2:00 a.m. feedings is not appealing to many potential foster parents. But what Carol likes best about fostering newborns is snuggle time with the babies.

When the Johnsons began fostering, they were still raising their own biological children. Their daughters were in 5th and 7th grade when the first newborn came to the Johnson household. The girls enjoyed having a baby in the house and, over the years, were available to babysit.

Even today fostering is a family affair. When Chatt and Carol visit their grown daughters and their five grandchildren, they have baby paraphernalia waiting for their use in their daughters’ homes. The grandchildren especially love having babies come to visit along with their grandparents.

Newborns placed for foster care with the Johnsons remain in their home for varying amounts of time. The longest a baby has been in their care is seventeen months and the shortest has been two months. Letting go of a child she has cared for is the only negative aspect of being a foster parent to Carol. The first time that a baby was removed from foster care was particularly hard on Chatt.

While a baby is in the Johnsons’ home, efforts are made to reunite a birth parent with her child. Typically visitation with the birth mother is held five times a week and with the birth father three times a week. When it is time for the baby to leave foster care, transitioning occurs. A child spends more and more time in the new home, so that it is not a drastic step for the foster parent not to come back to pick them up.

Even though babies may no longer be in the Johnsons’ home, they are never forgotten. Carol estimates that she and Chatt are still in touch with two-thirds of the babies which they have fostered. A framed picture of a heart containing the first names of all 55 babies the Johnsons have fostered hangs in the couple’s home; the artwork was a gift from their granddaughter.

Carol receives positive reactions from people who learn that she is a foster mother. Many admire her ability to do this work remarking, “I could never let them go.” Others relate to Carol that they have themselves been adopted.

The last 15-20 babies Chatt and Carol have fostered were drug-dependent. Carol says that it is not just one drug that the baby’s mother is using, but usually several. These babies are not released from the NICU until drug withdrawal is over. Once in their home, Carol and Chatt love on these babies and make them feel secure. And, of course, Carol prays over all her babies.

Carol expresses concern about the “desperate” need for foster parents in the area. Due to a lack of local foster homes, some children are being sent all the way to Central and South Florida for foster care. Sibling groups may also be broken up due to the unavailability of foster homes. Although Carol recognizes that it is a “rigamarole” to get licensed, she emphasizes what a blessing it has been to her and to the babies she has fostered to serve as a foster parent.

Lack of information and misperceptions may hinder some people from pursuing becoming foster parents according to Carol. She notes that foster parents may be single or gay and that a foster parent can work full-time because the state will pay for daycare. The biggest requirements for a foster parent, in Carol’s opinion, are simply that he or she be able to provide stability and love for a child. She also points out that a foster parent must be prepared to have a broken heart. Babies eventually grow up, and foster parents eventually must retire.

Carol tearfully faces retiring as a foster parent next year. Foster parenting has changed Carol and Chatt’s lives, but they have also had the opportunity to positively change the lives of the newborns placed in their care. The Johnsons are praying that others will step up to the foster parenting plate and be there for kids who need a stable and loving temporary home.

JUST WONDER-ing: Were you aware of the critical need for foster homes? Have you ever considered becoming a foster parent? Why or why not?

Horsing Around With Race Results

The biggest news out of the 2019 Kentucky Derby wasn’t which horse won the race, but which horse DIDN’T win the race. Maximum Security crossed the finish line a length and a half ahead of Country House, but he was not ultimately the winner of the 145th Run For The Roses. How can this be? Well, there was some procedural horsing around with race results.

To no one’s surprise, Maximum Security, the odds-on favorite to win the race, led from wire to wire. But his victory was short lived and was never official. Two jockeys in the race, Frenchman Flavien Prat and Jon Court, claimed foul immediately after the race triggering an official review by a committee of three race stewards.

What happened? Good question. During the 22 minutes while the race was under review by the stewards, television replayed clips of the alleged foul repeatedly and from various camera angles. Even in slow motion I didn’t see anything done wrong, but then, I’m neither a jockey nor a race steward.

So the experts say, Maximum Security bumped into War of Will who then hit Country House. Sounds like a set up for a game of dominoes. But none of the horses fell down, and the race continued.

Track conditions were less than favorable for the race. Heavy rains began in the hour and a half prior to post-time (official time for the race when all horses have to be at the starting line), making the track surface sloppy. The adverse weather also rained on the hat parade, forcing spectators to cover the showpieces on their heads with plastic. Shots of jockeys after the race revealed them to be splattered with mud.

Maximum Security’s jockey, 27 year old Panamanian Luis Saez, was interviewed about the claimed foul while the stewards’ decision was pending. He indicated that his horse may have lost his footing a bit in the mud and was probably startled by the crowd noise. I think I’d be startled too if 105,729 people were all screaming at the same time.

Meanwhile waaaay upstairs, the stewards committee reviewed clips of the alleged foul and interviewed jockeys involved. The stewards may have been six stories above the track, but they were under a microscope. Cameras were trained on them as they deliberated. They were obviously very intent on reviewing the evidence and could be seen pointing to various things on the monitors showing replays.

Waiting for the decision was agonizing. Commentators were forced to tap dance and come up with 22 minutes of commentary on a totally unexpected situation. The poor jockey who had ridden Maximum Security seemed in shock and dazed by the microphones and questions peppering him. The celebratory mood of the spectators turned to bewilderment. And then, at last, came the big decision. The crowd greeted it with booing.

Maximum Security’s place in Kentucky Derby history was secured by this decision, but not in the way the horse’s jockey, trainer, owners, or spectators who had bet on Maximum Security desired. He was disqualified for interference. Specifically, Maximum Security was unanimously judged by the stewards to have blocked the paths of several horses by changing lanes without clearance. i.e., he moved off his lane before he was clear of outside horses. Should he have used a blinker before changing lanes, then?

You’ve got to hand it to those stewards. They are an eagle-eyed and academic bunch. They were able to detect Maximum Security moving out of his lane on the final turn and bumping into the right hind leg of War of Will. (Enquiring minds want to know how many times they replayed the race clip to spot this foul.) I’ll bet the stewards have Section 12 of Rule 810 KAR1:016 memorized. Of course, they knew off the top of their heads that disqualification was required when a horse swerves or is ridden to either side so as to interfere with any other horse or jockey. Rule 810?? How many rules can there be for a simple horse race?

This shocking decision by the stewards resulted in the first time ever that a horse making it to the wire first at the Kentucky Derby was disqualified on site. It was even bigger news than the fact the oldest jockey ever to race in the Kentucky Derby, 58 year old Jon Court on Long Range Toddy, took part in the 2019 event and that the first ever Japanese bred horse, Master Fencer, was one of the 19 three year old horses in the 2019 race. Yea, those are interesting facts, but fans thrive on controversy.

Because Maximum Security was deemed to have impeded other horses in the final turn before the home stretch, Country House was elevated to the winner’s position. Holy cow! (Or should it be holy horse?) That meant a horse with 65-1 post-time odds won the race. Lucky spectators who had bet on Country House received $132.40–the second highest payout in Derby history. I came away empty-handed myself, but then again, I didn’t bet.

While Country House rose in the official order of finish, Maximum Security was booted way down. He was dropped to a 17th place finish behind the horses he affected. His thrill of victory was quickly followed by the agony of a heart-wrenching defeat.

Country House will not go on to vie for the Triple Crown. He has a cough, and it has been announced he will not run in the Preakness. Running around outside in the rain at Churchill Downs probably gave him a cold.

Meanwhile, Maximum Security’s owners can’t wrap their heads around their horse’s victory having been snatched away. Owner Gary West described the decision as “egregious” and appealed to the Kentucky Racing Commission. The appeal was summarily dismissed Monday because race fouls are judgment calls made by a committee of race stewards, and a ruling by track officials is not subject to an appeal. Legal options are now being considered despite the fact that no horse owner has ever successfully appealed outcome of a horse race in Kentucky. Moreover, successful appeals of stewards’ decisions are rare nationally.

Maximum Security does have one high profile figure in his corner. President Trump tweeted that the Kentucky Derby decision was “not a good one.” Unfortunately for Maximum Security, the president’s opinion does not trump that of the committee of race stewards.

Right or wrong, good or bad, perfect or imperfect, horse racing is a sport which is set up to involve judgment calls. Let’s leave the decision-making to the track officials and keep the courts out of this one. Aren’t the courts busy enough as it is? And I expect Maximum Security’s owners to respond to my opinion like Col. Potter in “MASH” would–“Horse hockey!”

Just WONDER-ing: Did you watch the 2019 Kentucky Derby? If so, could you spot the alleged foul committed by Maximum Security? Should determinations made by sports officials be dragged into court for review?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Inside Edition: U.S. Supreme Court

 

What do Carnegie Hall and the U.S. Supreme Court have in common? The way to get to both places is to practice, practice, practice. For the former you practice an instrument, but for the latter you practice the law.

I’ve practiced law for over thirty years, and this practice allowed me inside the highest court of the land this week. And I wasn’t there just as a visitor. I was admitted to the United States Supreme Court Bar Monday.

Surprisingly, becoming a member of the United States Supreme Court Bar has a requirement even Supreme Court justices don’t have to meet. What’s that? Well, you actually have to be an attorney. Supreme Court justices must be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate, but they don’t have to be attorneys. Currently, all sitting justices are attorneys, and it would be a miracle for a non-attorney to be appointed in this day and age.

Why do attorneys want to be admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court Bar? On a practical note, you cannot appear for argument before the high court without such admission. But, hey, let’s get real. Most members of the Supreme Court Bar will never conduct an oral argument in the there. But having the impressive framed certificate on your I Love Me Wall at work tells the world that you COULD.

There are perks to being a member of this bar. First, members have preferred admission to court proceedings. Seating in the courtroom is extremely limited, and the public has to stand in line for first come, first seated seats. The Supreme Court Bar has its own seating section for which the lines are much shorter. And this seating is pretty sweet–in front of the bronze railing (the “bar” of passing the bar reference) and directly behind those attorneys conducting oral argument. These wooden chairs  aren’t comfy, but their desirability is for their location.

Another perk for Supreme Court Bar member is access to the fancy Supreme Court library on the building’s third floor. You don’t need a library card to get in, but I was given a “BAR MEMBER” tag by the Clerk’s office to allow my entrance. A voluminous amount of law volumes are kept in the library. Energy conservation is a priority, and various rows of bookcases have a light switch on the bookcase’s end to flip on when one wants to go down that row.

Sadly, Supreme Court Bar members are not given access to the gym on the fifth floor of the building. In the original plans this area was designated for storage, but as the years passed personal fitness took priority. The Supreme Court gym includes a basketball court dubbed the “highest court in the land.” When the justices aren’t playing hardball with appellate attorneys in the courtroom, they can dribble a ball on the basketball court in the same building to let off steam.

The Supreme Court’s operation has been affected by post-9/11 security concerns. The photogenic steps rising to the front doors of the building are available for taking photographs, but you can’t get inside that way. Entrance is now only through the ground level plaza doors which funnel visitors through security screening. And, in order for me to enter the courtroom, I had to go through security a second time outside the courtroom doors.

Camera buffs will be sorely disappointed at the lack of photo ops. Take as many shots as you want outside the building and in the entry hall, but NO RECORDING DEVICES (audio or visual) are allowed inside the courtroom. Just in case you missed that directive, don’t worry; you’ll be told repeatedly that cameras and cell phones are forbidden.

The Supreme Court Justices hear oral arguments in the courtroom and announce their decisions there as well. The majority opinion’s author reads it aloud, but, as was noted above, the pronouncement is not recorded by visitors or media in the courtroom. Prior to my admission ceremony, Justice Elena Kagan read the court’s unanimous decision in Thacker v. TVA. So, for a few brief moments, only those in attendance in the courtroom knew what has been decided. Once court is adjourned, the rest of the world gets clued in.

Although the Supreme Court has been around for a long time, its current digs have not. After being in several locations in various cities (New York and Philadelphia in addition to D.C.), the high court found its permanent home at 1 First Street. Its residence there, one block east of the U.S. Capitol, got off to an exemplary start.The building’s construction budget was almost ten million dollars, but the project came in $94,000 UNDER budget. Talk about judicial economy!

The breathtaking marble structure does not look like a budget job. It truly inspires awe and reverence for the judiciary. The courtroom is not big from a seating perspective. But its ceilings are extremely high, and 24 columns made from Italian marble add to the grandeur.

Like the Supreme Court Bar, the Supreme Court Justices have special seating. They sit in big chairs on a raised platform at the front of the courtroom behind a bench made of Honduran mahogany. (So much for buying American…). Seating is assigned based on seniority. The Chief Justice sits in the big chair in the middle; the next senior justice (in terms of length of service) sits to his right, and the second next senior justice sits to his left. Seating by seniority continues on a right then left basis. Hopefully, the justices know where they supposed to sit, but for the rest of us, here’s the seating chart. From left to right it’s Gorsuch, Sotomayer, Breyer, Thomas, Roberts, Ginsburg, Alito, Kagan, and Kavanaugh.

To keep things moving in an orderly fashion, the justices are assisted by a clerk of a court and a marshal. The day of my admission, the clerk was nattily clad in a morning coat, and the marshal (a female) wore a broad tie and coat. Numerous security personnel dressed in dark suits were peppered about the courtroom keeping a wary eye on those seated before them.

The proceedings are punctual. At the stroke of ten, a buzzer sounded, and the curtains parted to reveal the entrance of seven justices. To justify their existence, the security detail solemnly motioned those in the courtroom to stand as the justices entered. But wait! Aren’t there NINE Supreme Court justices? Sure are. Two justices were playing hooky. It was Monday morning, so maybe they had been living it up a bit too much over the weekend.

In literally ten minutes’ time, the justices announced a decision and swore in three groups of attorneys to the Supreme Court Bar. Then they rose, the security personnel made hand gestures to direct those in the courtroom to rise, and the justices exited. Clarence Thomas is not only a legal scholar, but he is also a gentleman. He gallantly aided RGB in stepping down off the bench and out of sight. The new bar members were then perfunctorily ushered out of the courtroom.

What’s the hurry? Well, the justices are very busy at this time of the year. Oral arguments have ended, and less than half of the opinions for this term have been released. Around 70 decisions are rendered each term. Those 70 cases are the favored few chosen to be heard. Of the 7,000 to 8,000 appeals made to the U.S. Supreme Court each year, only about 1% are actually taken up by the high court.

Following the admissions ceremony, my group of new bar member  returned to the East Conference room where we had previously assembled for breakfast. A court photographer was summoned. (Yes, HE gets to have a camera in areas forbidden to the rest of us.) Then, who to our wondering eyes should appear? No, not Santa. RBG!!! She came to personally congratulate us on our admittance and joined our group for an official photo.

Justice Ginsburg wittily told us that since we had now been admitted to the Supreme Court Bar, she hoped we’d “come for the show.” Professionally, arguing before the Supreme Court sounds appealing. Who wouldn’t want to list arguing before the Supremes on her resume? But personally I would not wish the lengthy, expensive, and emotionally draining years long appellate process on any client of mine. I am satisfied to have simply had my ten minutes in the courtroom of the U.S. Supreme Court a few feet away from the Justices where I merely had to raise my right hand, smile, and say “I do.”

JUST WONDER-ing: How many of the U.S. Supreme Court Justices can you name? (Hint: All of their last names appear in the post above.) Can you name a famous Supreme Court decision? What’s something new you learned about the Supreme Court from reading this post?