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People endure cold and wet to be witness to history

  • Article by: JEREMY W. PETERS 
  • New York Times
  • March 25, 2013 - 9:59 PM

“Yeah, this is just not comfortable,” said Taylor Carter, a 19-year-old college student, who was trying to stay dry underneath a large blue tarpaulin that was barely shielding her and her 12-year-old brother and 15-year-old sister from the slushy mixture.

A spring snowstorm that blew through the capital seemed to do little to deter an eager few dozen people from huddling under soggy sleeping bags, plastic tarpaulins and oversize umbrellas as they counted down the final hours before the arguments began on Tuesday morning (the second case was scheduled for Wednesday morning). With about 20 hours to go, some had been there since Thursday night, moved by a sense of history and civic purpose. Others, like the Carters, had more a profitable reason: They were being paid to wait for someone else. “It’s enough,” Taylor Carter said, declining to say how much she was being paid.

In today’s real-time culture of live Web streams and up-to-the-second Twitter updates, oral arguments before the high court remain sealed off from the digital world, making tickets for the approximately 400 seats inside the courtroom precious commodities.

All electronic devices are banned. The only public record other than a transcript is an audio recording, which the court will not release until after the arguments have concluded.

The majority of the tickets are held for people with special connections. Chief Justice John Roberts’ cousin, who is lesbian, told the Los Angeles Times that she planned to attend as his guest.

About 100 seats will be reserved for those who stand in line — or who pay someone to. The court’s public information office said that about 60 to 70 of those are reserved for people who can view the entire argument, while the rest are for people who rotate in groups to watch for 3 to 5 minutes each.

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