I had the pleasure of moving the admission of our alumni to the Supreme Court bar, a program we began last year that I hope will now become a Brandeis tradition. We are the only university in the country without a law school that organizes the admission of alumni before the Supreme Court. We arrived at the Court Monday morning, after a short walk over in a bit of a rain shower. We were escorted to the Lawyer’s Lounge where we met with William Suter, who has served as clerk of the Supreme Court since 1991. He described the admissions process to the applicants and their gathered families. Bill is a great public servant who will be stepping down from his position as clerk this summer. I am grateful that he was present both last year and this year for our inaugural Brandeis Supreme Court admission events.
While we waited for the Court to begin, alumni heard a bit about the International Center for Ethics Justice and Public Life from Professor Dan Terris. We were escorted to the courtroom where — by custom — the spectators sit in silence to wait for the beginning of the session at 10 a.m. As many times as I have seen this, I still get a thrill when the clock strikes 10 and the nine Justices of the Supreme Court take their seats on the bench.
We were fortunate to hear the court read a rather historic opinion regarding the admissibility of DNA evidence taken involuntarily from a cheek swab of a person who has been arrested. Under the process, the DNA sample is used to determine if the defendant in that crime may have been involved in another unrelated crime for which DNA evidence is available. We heard Justice Anthony Kennedy read a summary of the majority opinion, upholding the process. Justice Antonin Scalia read a dissenting option (joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan), decrying this as a suspicionless search, previously deemed impermissible under the Fourth Amendment. I am sure that the case, Maryland v. King, will receive much attention for years to come. We will all remember being in the Courtroom when it was announced.
After the decisions were read, Bill Suter, as clerk of the Court, calls upon those making admission motions. I have to admit that it is quite an experience to be addressed as “President Lawrence” by Chief Justice John Roberts when called to present the motion for admission to the bar of our Brandeis University alumni. The real pleasure, however, is in seeing our distinguished graduates admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States.
After the session was adjourned, we were joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Ginsburg, who graciously answered questions and provided their perspective on the decision we just heard. After discussion, we headed outside to get a picture with the façade of the Supreme Court — impressive even when under renovation — in the background and were joined by our alumni for an informal luncheon and more lively discussion. Louis Brandeis would have been proud.