Tuesday, December 5, 2000
Y-S attorney attended historic Supreme Court hearing
Chris Kaufman /Appeal-Democrat
Marysville attorney Kulvinder Singh recently took the opportunity to sit in on some of the historical United States Supreme Court election proceedings -- Gary Mortenson, Appeal-Democrat
When Marysville attorney Kulvinder Singh in November 1999 started his sponsorship process to be admitted to the U.S. Supreme Court bar, he had no idea that more than a year later he would be witness to a piece of legal history.
After successfully threading his way through the admittance procedures, including the sponsorship of Yuba City attorneys Phillip Cooke and Jack Taylor, Singh decided he would opt to be sworn just prior to an actual session of the court, choosing Nov. 27 so he and his wife could enjoy Thanksgiving and visit their families on the East Coast.
Rather effortlessly, he was able to obtain a credential to be in the gallery that Monday morning while the high court provided one half-hour each to both sides in a voting rights case from North Carolina, one of seven cases scheduled for the week.
Excitement was already building for the Dec. 1 oral arguments before the court in Bush vs. Palm Beach City Canvassing Board. It didn't take much to convince Singh he wanted to stay around until the end of the week to take it in.
Singh arrived Friday with the hope of procuring a pass to sit in a small spectator section reserved for attorneys.
"I got there about 7 a.m. for the scheduled 10 a.m. oral arguments," he recalled Monday, "but there was already a line reaching around the building."
Protesters backing Bush were in front of the courthouse and across the street were protesters from the Democratic Party.
"I saw Ted Koppel near the front, and I remember thinking he was shorter than I thought he would be," said Singh with a smile.
Singh managed to qualify on a secondary list for a seat in a lawyers' lounge where he joined approximately 80 other attorneys, including many that work as analysts for television networks.
Among those he recognized in the lounge were Greta Van Susteren and Roger Cossack from CNN and Jeffrey Toobin from ABC.
In his office Monday, he proudly displayed his "No. 37" card along with a docket for the now famous hearing on Dec. 1, which was the first time that oral arguments in that court had ever been allowed to be broadcast, albeit only as an audio feed.
He was allowed to cut through the court prior to the beginning of the session, passing a section where top legislators were awaiting the start of the arguments, including senators Ted Kennedy, Orin Hatch and Patrick Leahy.
He said the style of the justices to interrupt attorneys for either side isn't so much to disrupt their presentation, but rather as a concerted effort by both conservative and more liberal justices to make specific points to their colleagues about particular points of law.
Talking to more seasoned attorneys in the lounge, he said after the oral arguments that most of them that heard the case believed that it would be a split court, but some correctly pointed out that no one ever knows for sure.
He said Monday afternoon he was nonetheless surprised by the 9-0 vote which was announced in the morning, and believes many of the other attorneys will be as well, but noted that since the ruling was vacated back to Florida, there are different ways to view that.
Singh said seasoned attorneys in the lounge told him that in normal procedure, the jurists meet later in a cloistered room, and in an informal way ascertain where the individual justices are leaning. The chief justice, if he agrees with the majority, either indicates he will author a majority opinion, or assign it to someone else, with a similar procedure on the minority side when the vote is split.
"I can tell you this, the whole process I saw was dignified, the justices were very well prepared and their questions and comments were quite insightful," said Singh.
Obviously pleased with his experience, Singh was asked as an attorney what it was like to be apart of Friday's historic event:
"Better than a Broadway play," he said.