Supreme Court Justice Comes to SJU

Approximately 400 students and faculty packed into the Belson Moot Courtroom to hear Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speak on the “Workways of the Supreme Court” last Wednesday.

Some students, who had previously reserved their seats on the St. John’s web-site, were denied access at the door and were told that the seating was alotted on a first come, first serve basis.

“After seeing the number of students who registered to attend the lecture given by Justice Ginsburg, the organizer of the event should have moved it to a larger place, such as Alumni Hall,” Amanda Velazquez, a junior government and politics major, said. Velazquez had reserved a seat but had to leave due to over crowding.

The Belson Moot Courtroom only has a capacity to hold 190 people. As a result, over 200 excess viewers were “sentenced” into two adjacent viewing rooms while Ginsburg spoke on the processes of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court receives approximately 7,000 to 8,000 cases a year for review. according to Ginsburg. However, only about 15 percent of these cases are actually discussed.

“Cases are heard far and few in between. More time means less dissension,” Ginsburg said.

Ginsburg also discussed oral argument, an opportunity for lawyers to review their positions before the Court and answer the judge’s questions. She suggested that lawyers should use this chance to find out what the judge is thinking and not just reiterate their position on the case.

“What was new and interesting was the desicion-making process,” said Juliet Moor, an SJU law school student who just finished the bar exam.

Ginsburg explained that the decision-making process begins with the oral arguments. The nine judges vote on the case, however they may alter their vote if they decide to change their original desicion.

The first vote is taken after the respective oral arguments are heard and discussed. The amount of time for the desicion making process varies.

“It could take weeks or even months, [the judges] keep discussing it until they come to a final desicion,” Joseph W. Bellacosa, the dean of the School of Law, said.

Ginsburg, a Brooklyn native who built her reputation laboring for gender equality, was one of the many speakers who participated in the Edward D. Re Lecture Series.

Speakers in the past have included Hon. Antonio Scalia, Supreme Court associate justice of the U.S.a and Antonio LaPergola, former president of the constitutional court in Italy.

Ginsburg was presented with a plaque in appreciation for her participation in the Lecture Series by Bellacosa and Professor Judge Edward D. Re.

“We were very honored that the Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States would come to us,” Bellacosa said. “It was a very important contribution to our students and alumni.”

Students were also impressed. “It was pretty interesting. She made sure that voting [on decisions] wasn’t political,” said junior Andrew Lyons, a government and politics major.

However, not everyone was completely impressed by her speech.

“She was not a good orator, constantly hesitated between words and had a poor sense of humor,” a third year law student said, who wished to remain anonymous. “Students were snoozing and fidgeting with their Palm Pilots.”