PFP fellow Andrei Briceac visits US Supreme Court

October, 15 2014

Since I was a student at the law school I had a dream to attend a hearing at the US Supreme Court. The Professional Fellows Program gave me this opportunity. I MADE IT! On October 15, together with my colleagues from Justice at Stake, I attended a hearing at the US Supreme Court.


The US Supreme Court is one of the most powerful institutions in this country. The way that important body works differs significantly from that of the European Supreme Courts. These justices are not just law interpreters, they are lawmakers also. They have the right to base their decisions on the Constitution rather than on laws. This competence allows them not to apply laws which they consider unconstitutional. The specific attributions allocated by the Constitution determine the role of the US Supreme Court not just as a judicial institution, but as a judicial-political one. The Court is constituted by 9 justices. It is a very small number in comparison to the number of justices of the European Supreme Courts. For more information about US Supreme Court visit Official website.


Some interesting facts that impressed me:

1. People manifest a high interest for the activity of the Court. Almost each day on TV or in newspapers you can find some mentions about the activity of the US Supreme Court justices.

2. Justices are very active and opened to the public. They frequently participate at TV shows and public lectures or publish articles and books.

3. Specialists have made a hobby from analyzing the profile of each of the justices. A journalist from Bloomberg made us a deep characteristic of each of the justices. For example, every lawyer know that justice Scalia is very active during the hearings, when he is asking a lot of questions, while justice Thomas speaks very rare during the hearing. I understood that the bench of the US Supreme Court is very diverse, being composed of representatives of different races, with different religious and ideological beliefs.

4. A lawyer has to be well prepared in order to speak as a counsellor before the Court. The justices are very intelligent and it is impossible to mislead them. Additionally, the lawyer must be ready to answer to all the questions addressed by the Court.

5.  It is a privilege to participate at a hearing of the US Supreme Court. Due to the limited seats in the courtroom (about 100 seats), people have to stay in line for hours.

6. I personally came at 8 AM at the Court and I was the 95th in line. I could not enter with the first group at 10 AM, but I entered with the second group at 12 PM. Many of those who came later than me did not have the occasion to participate at the hearing.

7. Before entering the court room it is necessary to pass through two check points. The first check point is at the entrance. Later, after personal belongings are left in a special box, it is necessary to pass through the second check point. I was allowed to take with me in the court room only a pencil and two sheets of paper.

8. During the entire hearing, the people that stay in the court room are under a permanent monitoring of the security agents.

9. The court room is very large. The roof is very high. All the interior arrangement is meant to impose respect.

10. And finally, the chairs used by the justices are very specific and flexible. During the hearing, it can be seen how the justices are moving back and sides on these chairs. You cannot see something like this in Europe.


Andrei Briceac
Chairman, Institute for Civil Justice NGO

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