March 26, 2012

In line again…

By In line again…

Well, here I am again, in the lawyer line for Day Two of the Obamacare oral arguments. It’s 12:34 a.m., and 45 degrees, on its way down toward a low of 36 degrees. And gusty winds. But I’ve got my oversized “Obama Hope” hooded sweatshirt, a fleece blanket from the White House gift shop, and a bag of trail mix and a bottle of water. Only nine and a half hours to wait….

12:40: The professional line-sitters are conversing among themselves about how they support Obamacare and only the evil greedy rich would be opposed to it. Sound like the Jack Cade conspiracy.

1:56 am: It’s very cold. To answer a recurring question, Union Station nearby has 24 hour bathrooms.

2:47 am: Went over to Union Station to warm up and get some coffee. Thank god for 24 hour Au Bon Pain… The line for the general public is at least 60 people. For lawyers, about 20. It’s 39 degrees.

2:52 am: What’s worse than freezing to death on a brick walkway at 2 in the morning in America’s most dangerous city? Doing so while neighbors in line deliberate over whether the action/inaction distinction is fairly attributable to Wickard v. Filburn.

3:13 am: A while back a young man knelt on the Court steps and prayed for quite a long time…. The general public line is quite well stocked with hammocks, sleeping bags, coolers–looks a lot like the Rose Parade back home…. If I survive this ordeal, it’ll be thanks to Mark Twain; I’m listening now to Life on The Mississippi. Yet another reason to adore our greatest writer.

5:08: Still quiet, except for the bewitching singing of birds in all the trees. There are about 40 lawyers in line now.

5:23 am: A union lawyer has decided to make a “list” if those in line, to prevent line-jumping; this has sparked some tension among the professional line-keepers. Two professional line-keeping companies are present, and I talked a while with one of their executives, who’s here checking on some of his 70 employees. (Not all are here tonight.) There are no formal rules about place-keeping, but certain norms have arisen as a spontaneous order. For whatever that’s worth. He and an executive from Washington Express, a competing company, are now engaged in a high-level discussion about one line-keeper who apparently was keeping spots for multiple people. (Against the norms, and even against the Supreme Court’s own rules!)…. Meanwhile two other line-keepers are engaged in an increasingly animated debate over Biblical prophecy.

6:14 am: Coldest part of the night, now; 36 degrees. Darkest night is just before the dawn, and all that. Musicians still paying across the street. Somewhere around 7 or 7:30, the Clerk of the Court, William Suter, comes out to greet the attorneys and will tell us how many will be admitted. If I don’t get in, I’ll go to the Attorney Lounge, where members of the Supreme Court Bar can listen in live over the sound system…. Earlier, I overheard the following discussion between two line-keepers: “They pass that bar, and then you got your ticket. They just sit back and collect the money!” “That’s ’cause they go to school all they lives. They go to high school and all that. So then they think it’s time to relax!” Ah, yes, like that evil exploiter, Thurgood Marshall….

6:32 am: Another beautiful D.C. sunrise.

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6:45 am: Gen. Suter has announced that they expect to seat 90 attorneys today for the argument. Behind me in line is Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSBlog fame.

7:02 am: Protests have started. I can’t make out the chant…. Looks like union pro-Obamacare protestors…. Utah AG Mark Shurtleff is having trouble finding his place-keeper.

7:11 am: They’re chanting “We love Obamacare!” There are about a dozen of them. I think that must be all the Americans who love Obamacare.

7:19 am: A tea party group has appeared, and is now shouting “hate!” every time the other chant gets to the word “love.”

7:52 am: In the building. More after the argument.

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