Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Dahlia Lithwick looks into the disturbing and weird world of the Supreme Court's marshalls:

    Some of the oddest conversations ever to be had in the United States of America are the ones between the reporters and marshals in the U.S. Supreme Court building. They resemble nothing so much as those bizarre discussions you'd have with your mother about waiting half an hour between a hot dog and a swim—the ones that ended in, "Because I said so." I have had marshals in the court confiscate newspapers and books (including, once, Franz Kafka's The Trial) for no articulable or articulated reason. I've seen them order the removal of neck scarves from some reporters, and head scarves from others, and I've seen them remove sketch artists in T-shirts. I have seen them remove handicapped protesters crawling up the front steps of the court building, while refusing to cite any rule that prohibits such conduct. These same marshals who demand a press badge to enter the courtroom, then march up during oral argument and ask that you not display it on your jacket. Query them as to why you cannot display the same badge needed to enter the proceedings, and they tell you that 3-inch plastic badges distract the justices.

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