Justice Thurgood Marshall’s widow, Cecilia Marshall, died this Tuesday. After her husband’s death in 1991, she continued to occasionally appear at the Court, most recently during the 2018 arguments in Trump v. Hawaii.
Tomorrow begins a new term for the Court, and I won’t be there.
My first visit to the Supreme Court was in the fall of 1976. I was twenty-four years old, had sketched a couple trials locally in Baltimore, and had come to DC in search of more work. CBS News gave me a chance to try out, so on that first day I accompanied Howard Brodie up the marble stairs to the courtroom, and later across the street to the Senate chamber. Howard, CBS’s chief sketch artist at the time, was by any measure one of the greatest visual journalists of all time, I was in total awe of him. He had been a combat artist during WW2 sketching for Stars and Stripes, as well as later conflicts, and had recently covered Watergate. He was also the most gentle and generous man, and thanks to him I got the job.
I also owe a great debt of gratitude to Betty Wells, another one of the great courtroom sketch artists. From Betty i learned a lot of the practical aspects of the job — like no work for hire, always retain ownership — and thanks to her I landed a contract with NBC News in 1980 which, except for a brief hiatus in the early nineties, carried me through to retirement.
And SCOTUSblog! SCOTUSblog was transformative. Instead of just covering each term’s few blockbuster cases, I got to be there for all of it and get a feel for the rhythm of the Court. Plus the banner sketches opened up a whole new creative door.
There are so many others who helped me and were a huge influence on my growth — too many to mention without leaving somebody out.
I will miss the Court, especially the press room where i felt more at home than anywhere else in DC. But I think I’m leaving at the right time. It was a good Supreme Court, if you can keep it.
Not sure why it has taken me so long to post these, I guess the thrill is gone. Very sad to see the empty Court closed to the press and public, surrounded by tall barricades and closed streets.
Here are sketches from April’s arguments.
As the Court’s March sitting began most of the attention was on the confirmation hearings for judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Here are some sketches from the sparsely attended arguments.
The big news in January: The announcement that Justice Breyer will retire after the last opinion of the term is delivered. A greatly admired and deeply humble man, Justice Breyer is famous for the expansive, and sometimes weird, hypothetical questions he asks during argument. With wonderful body language and an expressive face he is one of the most fun to draw. I wish him the best, and hope he continues to ride his bike without mishaps.
I don’t know why but as retirement approaches it has become increasingly difficult to bring myself to post the sketches to this blog. Forgive me. I will attempt to wrap it up and get up to date with these next three posts.
Seems someone left a fire extinguisher by the bench on the first day of the February sitting. It was gone the next day.
The Court started the January sitting early with an emergency hearing on vaccine-or-test mandates. Unfortunately I was out sick ( not COVID ) for that argument which of course was the biggie news-wise. I did make it back to in-person arguments the following week, and here, better late than never, are the sketches: