If These Walls Could Speak – a Brief History of the U.S. Supreme Court Building

by Veselin Simonov


Image by Flickr use Matt Wade

Lawyers and law students stand in awe of the Supreme Court of the United States. We reverently refer to it as “the Court”. We pick and choose the justices we like and agree with. We read the cases and treat the rulings as powerful and definitive. We argue over the Court’s role in our democracy but even during our debates we cannot overstate its importance to our society. The power of judicial review makes the Court the ultimate authority on saying what the law is. The Court is the nation’s heart of judicial power and such a powerful institution doesn’t come without its fair share of fascinating history.


The courtroom. Featuring the pillars made of Sienna marble. Image by Flickr user Phil Roeder.

Take the building the Court meets in, for example. Surprisingly, it’s relatively new – the Court didn’t get its own building until 1935 after existing for 146 years. At the very beginning, the National Capital was located in New York and the Court met at the Merchants Exchange Building. The Capital then moved to Philadelphia in 1790. There, the Court convened first in the State House (Independence Hall) and then in City Hall. Ten years later, the Capital moved again, this time to its permanent home in Washington, D.C. and the Court had no building of its own in which to convene. Congress thus offered the Court space in the Capitol Building. This started a period during which the Court would move several times around the Capitol Building. This ended when the British set fire to the Capitol in the War of 1812 and the Court was forced to meet in a private home until 1819. Once the Capitol was restored, the Court moved back in and met in a chamber now known as the “Old Supreme Court Chamber” until 1860. Then, the Court relocated to what is now known as the “Old Senate Chamber” until it finally moved into its own building in 1935.

The new building’s chief proponent was Chief Justice William Howard Taft (yes, that William Howard Taft – President Harding appointed him to the bench eight years after Taft finished his term as the 27th U.S. President). Taft convinced Congress to stop housing the Court in the Capitol Building and give it its own place. To that end, Cass Gilbert was chosen as the lead architect. Tragically, neither Gilbert nor Taft would live to see the building completed and the construction of their vision was finished under the direction of their successors. On October 13, 1932, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes spoke as the cornerstone was laid. His words were “the Republic endures and this is the symbol of its faith.”

Construction was complete in 1935 and the Court held its first session there on October 7 of that very year. The building incorporates several different types of marble. The main facade is made of Vermont marble while the inner courtyards consist of Georgia marble. The marble for the main courtroom’s 24 columns comes from Sienna, Italy – as per Gilbert’s exact directions. The building currently houses the Great Hall, the courtroom, the reading rooms and chambers of the justices, an exhibition hall, a gym, a basketball court (aptly named the Highest Court in the Land) and much more.

Not everyone was thrilled with the opulence of the structure. Associate Justice Harlan Fiske Stone called it “almost bombastically pretentious…wholly inappropriate for a quiet group of old boys such as the Supreme Court.” Another justice supposedly said the justices would be “nine black beetles in the Temple of Karnak.” Yet another justice humorously suggested that they should ride into the building on elephants. Remarkably, the opulent building came in $94,000 under budget, costing around $9.6 million in 1935 terms ($169.5 million in modern terms).

Concerns over the building’s extravagance aside, the Court finally had a home of its own – a place not only for the justices to decide cases, but a building symbolic of the judicial authority of the U.S.


The Great Hall. Image by Flickr user Phil Roeder.

Laptops in Classroom: Useful Tool or Attention Drain?

By John Evans

Most law students love their laptops. Editable, searchable notes which take less space and are much lighter than traditional books and pens. Laptops can also enable access to online textbooks and research platforms—all in the middle of class.  These new age textbooks can substitute lower costs, incorporate all sorts of media, and integrate advanced note taking options.

On the flip side, there is the distraction of social media, online games, articles and newspapers. Are the academic benefits worth the attention drain and temptations?

Some classes greatly benefit from the incorporation of laptops. For example, I found that the ability to update my work in real time while discussing issues in class was of immeasurable help in Foundations and Advocacy. However in more traditional classes, laptops only serve as a note taking devices.


By Dread83


Even professors seem divided on the issue. Some professors have issued outright bans.  Others have embraced technology by abandoning the analog casebook.

Recent academic studies do point to some answers. One study from the University of Michigan, showed that when laptop use is incorporated into classroom, as opposed to just being used to take notes, students report greater classroom engagement.  Another study showed that when laptops were only used for note taking, students who used laptops in class had a statistically significantly lower grade when controlling for academic aptitude. The study also found that 25% of students played games in class and 43% used the laptop to surf the web.


By John Keane


Does this question come down to self-control? Is the onus on us, as students, to uses are laptops more responsibly. Should professors put their foot down and ban laptops?  Is it just another factor helping the cream to rise to the top? Does the ability to concentrate through available distractions demonstrate a useful job skill, thus reflected in a student’s GPA?

What strategies do you use to ensure you only use your laptop for classroom activities?

Has Bankruptcy Become a Weapon for Team Owners to Circumvent League Control?

A 5 Part Series by Blake Williams



With a total of 11 professional sports franchises filing bankruptcy and considering the unique ways that franchises attempt to use it to their advantage, bankruptcy has truly become a peculiar feat within sports culture.  While the rate of filings among professional sports franchises is not very high, three MLB franchises and two NHL franchises have filed for chapter 11 protection within the last seven years.  While these franchises’ respective circumstances have been unique, most of their financial troubles were caused by the majority owner defaulting on loans, disputes between the league and the franchise, or subpar performance on the field leading to poor support from the local community (the Cubs being the notable exception).  Overall, team bankruptcies must be judged as successes because 9 of the 11 franchises successfully reorganized and remain active in the same city they were in when they filed.

It’s particularly peculiar, that of the 11 franchises that filed bankruptcy over the last 45 years, six of them have been from the National Hockey League.[1]  Patricia Moses of Portfolio 101 explained that, “It turns out that NHL teams have a higher likelihood of failure because the teams have less cash flow and the owners usually have a lower net worth than owners of other sports franchises”.[2]  The NHL has 30 teams, which means that 20 percent of the league has filed for bankruptcy protection at least once. The Pittsburgh Penguins are the only team that has filed twice. Also, the Cleveland Barons were the last major league sports franchise to cease operations due to its bankruptcy filing and subsequent merger with the Minnesota North Stars (now the Dallas Stars).

The MLB seems to have caught the latest bankruptcy bug.  The MLB has had five franchises file for bankruptcy, with three of the filings having occurred since 2009. This means that one out of six franchises have filed.  The most interesting fact is that as of recent, it’s not the small-market teams that are filing, but rather the big-market teams.[3]  No NFL or NBA teams have ever filed for bankruptcy protection.[4]


Stay Tuned for Part II: Reasons Teams File for Bankruptcy


[1] Patricia Moses, 4 Reasons Pro Sports Team File for Bankruptcy, Investopedia (Mar. 9, 2011),  http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0311/4-reasons-pro-sports-teams-file-for-bankruptcy.aspx.

[2] Patricia Moses, 4 Reasons Pro Sports Team File for Bankruptcy, Investopedia (Mar. 9, 2011),  http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0311/4-reasons-pro-sports-teams-file-for-bankruptcy.aspx.

[3] Matt Egan, The Latest Weapon in the Pro Sports Playbook: Bankruptcy, Media Advertising: FOXBusiness (July 01, 2011), http://www.foxbusiness.com/features/2011/06/30/pro-teams-throw-chapter-11-into-playbooks.html.

[4] Joseph Checkler, Sports Teams’ Secret to Success After Bankruptcy: File Again!, The Wall Street Journal (June 27, 2011), http://blogs.wsj.com/bankruptcy/2011/06/27/sports-teams-secret-to-success-after-bankruptcy-file-again/.

I’m On Campus and I Want Food!

Now that you are a month into the semester, you might be looking for some new dining options. You’re studying hard, spending long hours on campus, the student organization kick-offs that provide free food are dwindling, and you may be tired of the cuisine available within walking distance or in the law school. You could walk to your car, fight traffic, and drive in search of food more suitable to your palette, but with the study hours required for law school, ain’t nobody got time for that!


by Jean Fortunet

There is a solution for bored taste buds. Downtown Atlanta is a foodie’s heaven. Although all of the tasty meals may not be in walking distance, the COL’s urban location offers a variety of delivery options. In fact, there are so many options that the delivery services compete with each other by offering discounts (sometimes FREE) delivery on initial orders, and many offer referral fees. Plan your meals as carefully as you craft a legal memo in Lawyering Foundations, and you may eat cheap for a few weeks!




Event Management System: A New Way to Host Events

One of the College of Law’s numerous informative events put together by student organizations last year. This panel was organized by the American Constitution Society and discussed the passing of Justice Scalia.

by Veselin Simonov

If you are not a part of a student organization or club – then what are you waiting for?! The College of Law has over 25 different student organizations and one of them will surely catch your eye! From constitutional law to labor and employment – we have it all and you can check them out here.

If you are already part of a student organization, chances are your board will want to set up an event. To do that, you would need to reserve a room. Room reservations were previously done via email, however the College of Law recently began handling room reservations through the Online Event Management System (EMS). EMS is a simple, hassle-free way to reserve lecture halls and event space for speaker and panel-style events. This system is not for reserving library study rooms – you will still have to do that at the fifth floor desk or online.

To access EMS, go to the Events tab on InsideLaw. If you choose Internal Calendar, it will show you everything occurring in the College of Law on a particular day, including all the classes. If you choose Public Calendar, it will show you more typical “events,” like programs put on by CSO or by student organizations. To access EMS, select “Add an Event”. If you have not used the system before, you will have to submit an access request. You will typically receive permission to access the system within 24-36 hours of your request.

Once you have been granted access, you can request a room by going to “Reservations”. This will take you to a scheduling page where you need to enter some basic details about your event like date, time, expected attendance, etc. Once you complete your search, simply select a room from those shown as available and complete the booking (which formally requests permission to use the room). If you encounter any problems with the system, please contact College of Law staff by emailing lawevents@gsu.org.

Tips for Tackling Your First Semester of Law School

By Colleen Hampton

The first semester of the 2016-17 school year is underway and the building is buzzing with a special kind of caffeine-induced energy.  It’s the energy that comes with a fresh crop of 1L’s. Welcome to this wild, overwhelming world of legal education. 1L hell, as some call it, can be tricky but it doesn’t have to be the end of life as you know it.

Life in law school is all about balance and GSU COL has helpful resources to assist you in finding the ideal balance. Here are some helpful tips from those who survived 1L hell:

  1. Do your reading. Being prepared is a pretty big deal in law school (okay, it’s the biggest deal).  I wish I had a sassy quip to make light of this one but, no. It’s simply unprofessional to show up to class without having done the reading.  Read your cases.
  2. Start outlining earlier. You don’t have to know how the black letter law fits together in order to outline. Use your syllabus or table of contents in your book to begin. Both should have a useful framework in which you can insert your notes. This will help tremendously when November rolls around and exams are looming over you.
  3. Attend the Academic Success lectures. This law school stuff is new to you and that’s okay. Professor Kerew’s Academic Success Program includes a series of lectures covering subjects from ‘study groups’ to ‘exam strategies’ and everything in between. You can find the schedule for the Academic Success lectures on inside law.
  4. Take care of yourself. This is an absolute must. You are working hard to develop the discipline necessary to hack it in law school but don’t forget to recharge your batteries (yes, even if it means you take a break from reading). The Mindfulness in Law Society offers advantage of the Mindfulness Wednesdays beginning in September as well as Yoga classes on Wednesday morning (beginning September 20th from 7:20-8:20) and Tuesday afternoon (beginning September 21st from 4:30-5:30).  Contact Austin Charles, President of the Mindfulness in Law Society, for more information at austincharles08@gmail.com.
  5. Find a study group. Studying with others is important for a lot of students. Finding the right group may take time and that’s okay. When you found your study group start meeting sooner than you think necessary. Use your time to run over questions you have from the reading or discuss hypos from one of the study aids in the library. Working together early (before the exam crunch) will help you find the group that works best for you and give you a solid foundation when the panic of exams sets in.

Ultimately, there is no ‘right’ way to law school. Everybody learns differently and has different needs. If you are neck deep in your first semester of law school it can feel pretty overwhelming but do not despair. Try your hand at some of these suggestions, we hope they are helpful. Know that law school is survivable. You can do this.

Survived 1L hell? What worked for you? Share you tips and tricks with the incoming class.




We Also Have Fun and Games!

Grab some friends and have some fun!

by Veselin Simonov

Have you had a long study session recently? Have you been stressed out about classes? Do you feel like you would rather eat your casebook than read another long, complicated case? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, you may have fallen victim to a particularly nasty case of study fatigue.

But fret not, intrepid soon-to-be legal scholars! If you’re looking for a fun remedy that’s close at hand, then look no further than the fifth floor library desk! Believe it or not, we’ve got stuff that’s even more entertaining than study aids and flash cards (though those certainly come in handy for exam prep!). We also have a selection of wonderful board and card games and we welcome you to grab some friends and try them out!

Feel like a nice, relaxing game of chess? We’ve got you covered! Chess not your cup of tea? You can use the board with the checkers set that’s also included! Or maybe you and a few friends would like to play some bridge. No problem – just check out a deck of Bicycle playing cards. We’ve got other card games too. Apples to Apples will entertain a crowd of 4 to 10 players. Or you could give something like Uno or Phase 10 a shot. Think you can beat all your friends at Dominoes? Just rent out the library set and show them what you’re made of! Would you rather dust off your vocabulary skills? Then grab our Scrabble set and check out a dictionary while you’re at it. And if cribbage is more your game, then you are in the right place!

There are plenty of ways to beat stress in law school. Board and card games are an especially effective method. They are fun, social activities that will build bonds with your classmates and help you relax after a brutal day of critical thinking and learning new legal concepts. We hope you consider putting this valuable library resource to good use!