Courtartist is me, Art Lien. I've been sketching the courts since 1976, and for most of that time the U.S. Supreme Court has been my regular beat. I've been working almost exclusively for NBC News since 1980.
Courtroom sketching is a form of visual journalism or reportage drawing that is slowly dying out. Where once upon a time news organization each had their own artist covering a story, today a "pool" artist often sketches for all. It is a demanding and stressful discipline where the drawing is often done directly and under tight deadline.
On Wednesday the Supreme Court released three opinions, two of which made news, one of which – Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission – I sketched. I would’ve sketched the opinion in Bank Markazi v Peterson, that upheld a law directing Iranian assets to go to victims of terrorism, except I really couldn’t see much of Justice Ginsburg’s tiny figure hunched behind the bench as she delivered the opinion.
Sketches of the argument in Birchfield v. North Dakota, actually three cases concerning state laws that make it a crime to refuse a warrantless blood-alcohol test when stopped for DUI, are below.
iPads and smartphones are not normally permitted in the courtroom but an exception was made for members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Bar Association at the Supreme Court on Tuesday for the swearing in ceremony. American Sign Language interpreters were also present, seated in front of the bench right below Justice Kagan.
After the lawyers were presented Chief Justice Roberts used sign-language granting the motion to admit them to the bar. I wasn’t able to actually see the Chief signing as my view was blocked by the lawyers standing in front of me.
I also sketched the argument in United States v. Bryant.
. . . and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, was before the Supreme Court today.
A very large crowd supporting the president’s immigration policy was gathered in front of the Court’s plaza. Some had been there since Friday hoping to get a seat inside the courtroom for the arguments in United States v. Texas. And the courtroom was in fact packed with spectators full of anticipation, hoping to get an inkling as to which way the Justices may rule.
But at the end of the hour and half of mostly technical argument there was little to glean. You an read about it here.
. . . in Evenwel v. Abbott.
Wearing her gold, star-pointy, jabot-like whatchamacallit Ginsburg announced the unanimous decision that “one person, one vote” means Texas may draw voting districts according to total population as it does now, and is not required, as the petitioners claimed, to count only eligible voters. But the Court said “may,” not must, and the question whether it would be equally permissible to count only voters in determining districts is not settled.
I also did this Hiroshige inspired banner sketch for SCOTUSblog on this lovely spring morning (the weather for the rest of the week may not be so pleasant).
No blockbuster arguments at the Court this week, though a pretty significant 4-4 decision in the teachers’ union case and an unusual call for further briefs on ACA contraception.
I spent most of my time preparing for the final round of arguments in April, penciling in the architecture of the courtroom and getting use to the Justices’ new seating arrangement. Here are the few sketches that I did manage to finish.
I don’t understand much of this case that was heard last Tuesday by just seven justices, Alito having recused. What seemed most notable, at least to me, was that Justice Kennedy didn’t ask a single question (neither did Thomas, but that’s expected). Justice Sotomayor, of course, took an active role.
Here’s a link to Lyle’s piece on the argument. And below are my few sketches.
I wish there were a photo directory of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. I could have have used it yesterday when the Supreme Court heard arguments in Zubik (as in Bishop Zubik) v. Burwell, the case challenging ACA contraception coverage. In the courtroom before the Justices came to the bench I sketched who I thought was Cardinal Wuerl, but later in the pressroom googling his image I realized I had the wrong bishop. I had instead limned the likeness of Bishop Persico of Erie, Pennsylvania.
At least I recognized the Little Sisters of the Poor as they gathered in the Court’s cafeteria.
Below are my sketches from the argument. You can read Lyle’s analysis here.
A new seating order in the Court as the Justices returned to the bench today for arguments in two cases. Since Justice Scalia was the most senior, and since the Associate Justices are seated in order of seniority, all except the Chief had a new position on the bench. When a new Justice is eventually confirmed and sworn he or she will be seated on the far right next to Justice Sotomayor.
Sotomayor recused herself from today’s second argument, RJR Nabisco, Inc. v. The European Community, leaving only seven Justices on the bench. And the second case to be argued tomorrow, on Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, will also be one Justice short with Alito recused.
It’s been ten years since the Court last heard arguments on abortion, coincidentally the same amount of time Justice Thomas maintained his silence during arguments until he asked several questions from the bench earlier this week. Dashing some expectations he posed no questions during today’s argument.
Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is an appeal of a Texas law that places requirements on abortion clinics so excessive that many are forced to close. Much has been written about the case so I’ll just post my sketches and point the reader to Lyle Denniston’s post on SCOTUSblog.
“Ms Eisenstein, one question,” intoned the deep voice of Justice Thomas this morning just as Assistant Solicitor Ilana Eisenstein was concluding her argument. That marked the end of Thomas’ ten year record of not asking questions during oral arguments. He went on to pepper the lawyer with a dozen more questions, perhaps to make up for the absence of Justice Scalia, his recently deceased neighbor on the bench.