News & Media

TJSL Student Witnesses History

Published: June 27, 2013
Samantha SCOTUS
Samanatha Morales (3L) in front of the Supreme Court Building (all photos by Samantha Morales)

TJSL student  Samantha Morales (3L), who is an intern at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. this summer, was in the courtroom on June 26 when the U.S. Supreme Court read its decisions in the DOMA and Prop 8 cases.  Here is her moving account of the experience:

Hearing Justice Kennedy say “DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment” is a moment I will never forget. His words instantly changed the energy of the courtroom as many of us breathed a sigh of relief. Tears of joy fell and exhilarating, yet contained, excitement filled the air.

The excitement grew when moments later Chief Justice Roberts announced that Hollingsworth was remanded to the district court which had declared it unconstitutional because proponents of Proposition 8 did not have standing to defend the law and appeal. “We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do it now,” he said.

It was a huge victory for so many of my friends and family back home in California who were counting on this day to pave the way to finally legalize gay marriage in our state.

I made it inside not once, but twice this week. 90 people were let in on Monday and I was number 90. By 9:50am today, we had lost hope of getting in when all of a sudden, I was one of the last 15 being rushed through security. We were seated just as the opinions began.

Seeing all nine justices all at once in front of you inside the majesty of our highest court is simply spectacular. Hearing them speak and interact from the bench is incredible because it provides a glimpse into their distinct personalities and backgrounds that have shaped the decisions we study in law school.

The six decisions issued on Monday touched upon so much of what I learned in Constitutional Law last year. I immediately thought, “I can't wait to tell Professor Herald about this!”

I am incredibly fortunate to be interning in D.C. this summer. If there was ever a time to be here, this is it. Getting up before daylight and standing in line for hours in hopes of getting a seat inside the Supreme Court has been completely worth it.

Seeing the sea of people outside rallying and cheering in happiness as I walked out of court today onto the Supreme Court steps, was euphoric. I knew I was witnessing a pivotal moment in our nation's history that upheld the framework of equality and justice in our society – the two basic principles as to why many of us have chosen this profession.

On a day when our nation was watching, I will forever look back and say “I was there”.