Earlier this semester, seniors in our U.S. Supreme Court class were visited by Professor Jessica Schoenherr, an expert in Supreme Court culture, and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of South Carolina. Professor Schoenherr led an engaging discussion covering a wide range of topics including the Supreme Court Cafeteria Committee, off-bench judicial friendships, and the historical evolution of diversifying the Supreme Court as an institution.
Professor Schoenherr’s insightful remarks sparked questions and fostered meaningful connections among students to in-class conversations. Senior, Elan C. revealed that the section on the Supreme Court Cafeteria Committee resonated with class discussions about the early Supreme Court and how former Chief Justice John Marshall transformed the Court’s culture. Steering it away from its informal roots, where members met in hotel rooms, into an authoritative and legitimized institution housed in an official building, its members dressed in their notable black robes.
Elan was particularly surprised by Professor Schoenherr’s notion that justices with entirely opposing political ideologies can form close friendships. This insight was interesting to him as it further defined the idea that members of the Supreme Court are human beings just like everyone else. Elan expressed his motivation for taking the U.S Supreme Court this year stating, “I chose this course to gain a deeper understanding of the Supreme Court’s origins and the rationale behind its pivotal decisions, which I believe will help me grasp the institution’s jurisdiction.”
In a world where Supreme Court Decisions have such a considerable influence on the future of the United States. Professor Schoenherr’s visit assisted in enhancing students’ understanding of the Supreme Court’s culture, history, and the decisions that shape its role as a vital political institution today.