May It Please The Court… The United States Supreme Court
Each court has a listing of the attorneys who are permitted to practice in that court. In many instances, an attorney’s licensure in a particular state permits appearance in all trial level courts within that state. However, state appellate courts usually require attorneys to apply for permission to appear before that court. When this occurs, the lawyer is “admitted to the bar” of that court. The same is true of all federal courts. For instance, after I became an attorney in 1999, I applied for and was admitted to the Georgia Court of Appeals, the Georgia Supreme Court, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia and the United States Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. While an attorney can submit paperwork requesting admission to these courts, I took great efforts to appear personally to be sworn into the bar of each court whenever possible. I recall each event with great pride and respect for the traditions of each court knowing how many attorneys appeared there before me and how many will follow.
On October 31, 2011, I was honored and humbled to be admitted to the bar of the United States Supreme Court. I traveled to Washington, D.C. with my wife, Barbara. the day before. We took in some sights, walked the mall and visited the WWII and Law Enforcement memorials. Sunday evening, we enjoyed dinner with several members of the Cobb County Bar Association and their families who also made the trip. On Monday morning, we entered the United States Supreme Court and met for breakfast in the cafeteria. The building is made completely of marble and it is beautiful! All around the building are reminders of the history of our country and the role the Court played in shaping our country.
Carrying on the proud traditions of the Court, I took the oath and was sworn in as Justice Roberts began the day. I stood beside other attorneys, including several members of the United States Coast Guard, as the clerk of Court administered the oath. We then received a warm welcome from Justice Roberts. True to tradition, the Court immediately began oral argument on the two cases on the docket for that day.
The oral argument, in both cases, centered upon the question of whether or not a person convicted of a crime is entitled to the sentence offered in plea negotiations prior to trial. The oral argument was passionate and the questions from the justices were predictably pointed. It was interesting to note that the justices sit at nearly eye level with the attorneys.
As I left the Court with Barbara, I thought of all of the decisions signed by the justices of the United States Supreme Court and how those decisions shape our lives as LEOs. Time and time again, the justices of the United States Supreme Court respect the reality of law enforcement in their decisions. From use of force to issues of officer safety, I am always impressed by the balance struck by the Court. When you read about an opinion of the USSC, never take someone’s opinion of what the Court said or the rule of law expressed in the opinion. Read the case. You can find the opinions here.Those opinions are filled with history and the rationale of the Court and provide guidance for all LEOs.
When I appeared to be sworn in, I carried with me a pen given to me by two friends when I graduated law school, my LEO ID and my retired LEO identification card. I also wore a blueline lapel pin. In a small way, I wanted to stand for the LEOs who make the cases that come to the USSC. Never forget it is the LEO on the street who takes the risks, solves the crime, makes the arrest and testifies in court. It is the LEO who trusts the Justices of the United States Supreme Court to balance the rights provided in the United States Constitution against the realities of law enforcement in the United States. As you begin your next shift, you can be certain the Justices of the United States Supreme Court ensure that you as LEOs will receive “Equal Justice Under Law.”
I would like to extend a special note of appreciation to the men and women of the United States Supreme Court Police for their courtesy and professionalism handling a near impossible task of providing safe access to one of the most prominent buildings in the world.