5 Reasons The Supreme Court Is The Best Obsession You Can Have
Growing up in the age of Law & Order, it's hard for millennials not to dramatize criminal justice proceedings — or court room proceedings in general. Though Supreme Court cases can be complex and intimidating, paying attention to them pays off for years. The funny thing about SCOTUS cases, though, is that once you get sucked in, there's no walking away or throwing up your hands. Most of these cases bite down on fundamental, philosophical questions about life, freedom, the right to health, etc., so the issues trigger visceral, morally-motivated opinions. Being obsessed with the Supreme Court will make you a super nerd, and, you know what, that's pretty great.
Why do you think Robert Kardashian's closing argument in O.J. Simpson's case will be remembered forever? In the words of my roommate, it's because "everybody loves rhymes — especially when they relate to justice!" *Thrusts a fist into the air* Take that kind of drama and love for justice to its highest level — the U.S. Supreme Court — and you've got a recipe for epic-ness, at least in my opinion. The Supreme Court is composed of some of the most intelligent and successful lawyers of the last 50 years, and the issues presented at the Court are the crème de la crème. Brown v. Board of Education, Miranda v. Arizona, Roe v. Wade, Hollingsworth v. Perry (the decision that overturned Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriage in California), Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. (SIGH) — these are all landmark decisions that set standards on our access to certain legal rights.
Here's why being a SCOTUS obsessive is pretty fantastic...
1. You Will Never Be Out Of The Loop
Supreme Court cases often deal with the most prominent cultural and political issues of that generation. For example, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. found that two for-profit corporations with "sincerely held religious beliefs" did not have to provide a full range of contraceptives at no cost to their employees under the Affordable Care Act, according to The New York Times. The court held that "as applied to closely held corporations, the Health and Human Services regulations imposing the contraceptive mandate violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act," according to ABC News. The decision, which was 5-4, spoke to a number of important issues: separation of church and state, freedom of religion, the right of the state to regulate women's access to healthcare — birth control included — under full-time employment, and the relation of corporation's religious beliefs to employees' beliefs.
Women's rights issues like sexual assault prevalence, abortion, and sex work have been hot topics over the last few years. Separately, the number of Americans who claim to have no religious affiliation is at an all time high, according to The Huffington Post. Add those two together and you've got something pretty close to the crux of the Hobby Lobby case. Look at a few other Supreme Court cases and their respective generations, and you'll likely come up with something similar.
2. You'll Be Exposed To The Most Quotable People In The U.S.
Supreme Court justices each have their own political alignments, preferences for interpreting the constitution, fun personality quips, and even fashion statements. All of them were attorneys at some point in their careers, so they are inevitably well read, well written, and just generally brilliant. This means they are some of the most quotable people in the U.S. Even better, many of their statements live on for decades. Here are a few of the most monumental and badass quotes by current and former Supreme Court justices:
Sonia Sotomayor: "Don't mistake politeness for lack of strength."
Thurgood Marshall: "If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch. Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds."
William J. Brennan: "Capital punishment ... treats members of the human race ... as objects to be toyed with and discarded."
Ruth Bader Ginsburg: "So now the perception is, yes, women are here to stay. And when I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough (women on the Supreme Court)? And I say when there are nine, people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”
3. You Will Be A Genius At Interpreting Future News Events
News events that surround fundamental questions concerning our freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights happen much more often than you think. For example, take the recent case of the University of Oklahoma Sigma Alpha Epsilon brothers who were expelled for a video that showed them singing a racist chant. A lot of people criticized Oklahoma's President David L. Boren for infringing on the students' free speech rights. They said something along the lines of "You can't silence speech, even if it's speech that you don't like or speech that is tasteless." That argument sucks, because it's defending racists, whose speech can fuel violence, to some extent, but it's technically true.
In 1968, the Court ruled in Brandenburg v. Ohio that a Ku Klux Klan leader was allowed to spew disgusting, insulting, racist speech under the First Amendment because it didn't "incite imminent lawless action." As much as I hate to say it, that standard applies to the fraternity brothers above because state and federal appeals courts have used it to decide what kinds of student expression is allowed, according to The Washington Post. If the expelled students decided to sue, many think they would succeed. Thanks, Supreme Court. But really, free speech is the bomb.
4. You'll Be Great At Social Media Debates
We all have those friends who comment on our social media posts about women's rights or feminism and say something like "Feminists just hate men! Women are equal!" and then go about their merry way making $1 to every 78 cents that women make. Grr. Well, with the help of the Supreme Court, you can put those friends in their place. Being obsessed with SCOTUS makes you knowledgeable, but it also helps you understand arguments and logic. Talking about the arguments behind a Supreme Court case is like taking a super intense philosophy/sociology/political science course all wrapped into one.
For example, in Brown v. Board of Education, the Court struck down segregation in schools because people were beginning to understand that black people did not have different learning aptitudes or diseases than white people, and that separation could not encourage social equality. The arguments get deeper though: The Court said separation implied inequality. Black students received a poorer education, and white students, if brought up in separate schools, would only continue to perpetuate social superiority if separation continued. That reasoning, though! Referring to a SCOTUS case in a social media debate is like doing a Beyoncé hair flip.
5. You Will Know Your Rights
The Supreme Court is great because it will often ardently defend citizens' right to privacy. That means that knowing the Court will help you know what rights you're entitled to. Listen up, partying college students! The Supreme Court has held that a warrant issued by a judge is required for police to search your person or private home, unless they have probable cause.
Let's apply this to partying college kids. A noise complaint is not enough for an officer to enter your home. If an officer pulls you over for speeding, that does not authorize them to search the vehicle. The Supreme Court established what's called the "plain-view doctrine," which effectively means that anything in plain sight is fair game and an officer could seize it or arrest you for it. But, for example, the officer couldn't move things around to get a better look. Knowing SCOTUS cases can only help you better stick it to the man — when necessary.
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