What’s a girl gotta do to run into a Supreme Court Justice?


Cara L. Gallagher, Weekend Contributor

I’ve spent the holiday break in the sun-drenched state of Arizona every year for the last ten years. It’s warmer than home, I have family and old friends down here, I got married here, and I know where to find an awesome bagel. Yes, lots of reasons to be psyched about spending a week here every December. But there’s another not-so-secret reason I always look forward to returning to the Grand Canyon state – it’s for the a slim chance that I might run into the elusive Supreme Court Justice who calls this state home, Sandra Day O’Connor.

I’m not often subtle about my quest and every year I’m teased by friends and family for this wish to run into SDO’C. They can always count on my suggestions for dinner at restaurants in Paradise Valley near where I hear she frequents. Anytime I’m in town there’s always a bartender, waitress, or family friend telling me (bragging?) how Justice O’Connor was just dining yesterday, or last weekend, or earlier that day nearby. You mean I just missed her?! Again?! In my mind, we run into each other and the casual banter flows from there. More likely I come off crazy, aggressive, and inappropriate.

Why is it so hard to catch a sighting of a Supreme Court justice? They eat too. They have family in town they need to entertain, or take to Starbucks, or grocery shop at AJ’s, fine purveyors of overpriced food. How have we not already had at least one happenstance run-in over a decade?   Come to think of it, how in all the years I’ve travelled to D.C. to cover the Court and justices, have I not run into one outside the Court?

There’s an obvious answer to that final question.  Secrecy and privacy are fixed conditions of all SCOTUS Justices. Staying off the public radar, unless they have a book to sell, is part of the job.  There is as much obstinance and control over the activities of the justices outside the Court as there is inside. Richard Wolf wrote an article for USA Today about Supreme Court Justices getting the same rubberneck reactions typical of folks who’ve just spotted a rock star on the street. The “no-cameras” rule follows most from the Court into auditoriums where justices like Scalia and Roberts also control the topics of discussion and the Q&A. Tickets to see them speak at universities, law schools, and organizations like the Smithsonian or National Constitution Center sell out in hours and for a hefty price. In most cases you have to be a student or member to attend. A website called SCOTUS Map tracks future appearances of justices, however most appearances are available for a select few.

Clearly my odds of seeing Justice Kagan at a Starbucks in Dupont Circle or running into SDO’C at a restaurant in Phoenix are better than the alternatives. I’ll likely never get my run-in and even less likely is what I hope follows after we’re seated at tables next to each other – a gab session about the current court, the future of same-sex marriage cases, and who the next justice to retire will be. Never gonna happen, I know. But I can dream.

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

20 thoughts on “What’s a girl gotta do to run into a Supreme Court Justice?”

  1. Try the 1789 Restaurant in Georgetown. My wife and I were celebrating our anniversary (March 27, 2011) and she (and her husband?) were sitting two tables over from us with another couple. I hesitate to admit that we eavesdropped on them. The conversation was fascinating, not something you hear everyday. She was apparently celebrating her birthday, so the restaurant arranged for the Georgetown Chimes to perform in the restaurant. We were just lucky enough to be there. Here’s the video (there’s a quick glimpse of her sitting against the wall watching the Chimes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXHsA01hLIw

  2. Celebrities are like cats. If you want nothing to do with them they are all over you. But if you try to engage they will stalk off haughtily and pretend you are dirt beneath their feet.

  3. Thank you, Professor. I liked her article. Humor is a good thing. I once said hello to Kathy Lee Gifford, who WAS at the table next to me. With great regret. She was in my home for an hour, M-F. She was not the TV persona. Actually rude. It was just hello because my seat put her face in front of my face. I think Justice O’Connor would be classier if you just said hello. She might say hello back. But truly, enjoy seeing her with no interruptions to her activity.

    1. Sandi – I was able to say hi to Gerald which is a much bigger deal in Arizona then talking to Sandra Day O’Conner. 🙂

  4. I have deleted a series of comments from various people that are personal and are in violation of our civility rule. This is the place for such tit for tat commentary and I ask everyone to comply with the rule or move down the Internet road to places where such comments are appreciated or even encouraged.

  5. Ms. Gallagher is a superb weekend blogger. She deserves more support from current and ex-weekenders. Those seven deadly sins! But, that’s how I make my living. Good night.

  6. If you want to find Scalia go to that cathouse on K Street in DC. Or is it C Street? I get them mixed up.

  7. Watching the Bear’s game. A young, upbeat dynamic QB w/ an above average arm vs. a dogass, loser, w/ a golden arm.

  8. Ms. Gallagher continues to impress, combining both substance and interesting musings. JT used his first round draft pick much better than his Bears ever do.

    My job involves facial recognition. People think I’m just lucky[jerks think I’m lying] w/ all the famous people I recognize. Here’s something folks into SCOTUS and govt. often fail to realize. Probably 75% of people in this country cannot name more than 1 or 2 justices and would not recognize any if they saw them. Many people here can, of course, name and recognize all of them. O’Connor has been my favorite justice in my lifetime. She was n inspired pick. Maybe the last non Ivy Leaguer? But, I’m sure that would just be coincidental!!

  9. Tom
    You beat me to this comment. That is exactly what I thought when I read ccrider’s comment.

  10. I have lived in the Phoenix area since 1963 and have never run into her. She does do some public speaking in the area and is part of some educational thingie, but I have never felt it was a big loss not to run into her.

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