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Video: Supreme Court Fellows reflect on the judicial system

May 21, 2014 by NCC Staff


The 2013-2014 Supreme Court Fellows
The 2013-2014 Supreme Court Fellows

In a rare public appearance, the Supreme Court Fellows discussed their fellowship experiences and shared their insights at a National Constitution Center event.

The group talked about the challenges of federal court management with the National Constitution Center’s Jeffrey Rosen, in a program that was co-sponsored by the Supreme Court Historical Society.

Established in 1973 by Chief Justice Warren Burger to promote public understanding of the judiciary, the Supreme Court Fellows Program provides four outstanding individuals with the opportunity to serve the federal courts “from the inside.” Fellows spend a year embedded with one of four agencies within the judicial branch. Once finished, they become cherished members of a tight-knit alumni community.

Michael L. Shenkman, a fellow and lecturer at Columbia Law School who spent his fellowship in the Office of the Counselor to the Chief Justice of the United States, called the program “a little-known gem” and a “fantastic opportunity to see the Constitution in action.”

Dawinder S. Sidhu, a professor at the University of New Mexico School of Law who worked with the U.S. Sentencing Commission, said it was useful, from a teacher’s perspective, to see what works—and what doesn’t—when advocating before the Supreme Court.

Stephanie Tai, a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School who supported the Federal Judicial Center this year, agreed. “The best advocates listen between the lines,” she explained, “and try to answer the questions they hear.”

George Everly, III, counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on the Budget who spent his fellowship at the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, said he was “blown away by the quality of work” he observed.

“People aren’t looking for press hits,” he said. “Lawyers aren’t showboating. It’s a very substantive process.”

Sidhu, one of Rosen’s former students, concurred with a vote of confidence in the federal judiciary.

“I teach constitutional law,” he explained, “and during the last class of the semester, I usually ask the students one question, which is, ‘What was the first line in The Godfather?’ Usually students are dumbfounded.

“It’s ‘I believe in America.’ And the reason why I believe in America is because of the Constitution itself. It establishes a process, a framework in which disputes can be resolved. We’re seeing that process play out every day in our line of work. And these disputes are resolved by way of argument, of convincing decision makers that this is the way things should be, not by force or fiat.

“So to see that process play out, I think, reaffirms my confidence. The seriousness with which the [Supreme Court] justices question advocates, the way in which advocates themselves prepare, inspires me more that this process actually works.”

You can watch the full program below or by clicking here.

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