After nearly four months in Washington, D.C., on an American studies program, Michelle Creek had a chance at something special Wednesday – but it meant getting up at 5:45 a.m., walking some 10 blocks through the city and waiting in line in the early morning chill.
“I could not miss it,” the Whitworth University political science major and pre-law student said.
Concert tickets? The latest hot gadget? No. A chance to see history being made. She wanted a seat in the U.S. Supreme Court for the arguments of Roe v. Reed, a potentially landmark case to decide whether the names of people who sign petitions for ballot measures are public.
She’s studied the justices’ opinion, but seeing the court is different than reading about it, Creek said in a phone interview. “Everything comes off the page, and it’s so real.”
So the 21-year-old junior from Kennewick, dressed in layers and a North Face jacket, grabbed a blanket and headed for the Supreme Court building before dawn, where the people in line ahead of her had camping gear and some slept outside all night. Good thing she didn’t arrive much later. Only 75 tickets were available to the public; she got No. 57.
The Supreme Court is a very formal place and spectators are restricted in what they can bring into the courtroom. Creek had to store her blanket and cell phone in a locker before entering the room. But the arguments come fast and furious, and the justices have a sense of humor.
“Justice (Antonin) Scalia is just so funny,” Creek said. He told James Bopp, attorney for the sponsors of Referendum 71 who want to keep the names private, that sometimes democracy requires courage. When Bopp tried to counter, the justice drew laughter by saying “this is just so touchy-feely.”
She thinks Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna handled questions from the justices better: “He was so engaging and so confident. He never made a mistake.” But she doesn’t know how that will factor into the court’s decision, expected to be handed down by the end of June.
Creek returns to Spokane on Sunday after finishing a program with the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, and her early morning jaunt has her more determined than ever to go to law school.
“I’d do it again in the heartbeat,” she said. “This was the icing on the cake.”