A Supreme Experience: First-Hand Account
As the Co-chair of the all-volunteer committee which coordinates Hadassah's National Attorneys' Council’s annual Swearing In program at the United States Supreme Court, for the past several years, I have had the distinct privilege - and, indeed, the pleasure - of leading groups of Hadassah Life Members and Associates to the High Court in Washington, D.C. for an event which I believe has been aptly described as "a slice of legal heaven." This program, a yearly event now in its 15th year at Hadassah, is unique and unlike any other program of its kind. It has always been a highlight of the professional and volunteer lives of those in attendance. Having participated in this program myself in its early days (in 2002), I certainly share the sentiments of several of this year’s participants who have described the entire experience as “memorable,” “amazing,” “life-changing” and “awesome.”
This year, we were particularly thrilled to be able to bring two different groups of attorneys to be sworn in before the nine Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court - one group on Monday, February 24, and another group on Tuesday, February 25, 2014. The Monday group hailed from across the nation; the Tuesday group was largely comprised of members of the Yashar Chapter based in the Nassau Region, New York, the only Hadassah Chapter comprised exclusively of judges and attorneys, which is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary. Each day’s program began with a "kick-off" dinner - these dinners have always been hallmarked by renowned speakers from the legal community, and this year was certainly no exception. On Sunday evening, we were extremely privileged to have Adam Liptak, the Supreme Court correspondent for The New York Times, address our members, and on Monday evening, we were equally privileged to have Ian Gershengorn, the Principal Deputy Solicitor General for the United States Department of Justice, speak to the group. All who attended agreed that the unique insights each speaker possessed - albeit from different perspectives - added immeasurably to the entire event.
On both mornings following our “welcome dinners”, we received a warm greeting at the High Court by the recently appointed Clerk of the Court, Scott Harris, who also provided an orientation for the actual swearing in ceremony, which preceded oral arguments on both days. After the arguments on Monday, the group had the distinct privilege to meet with Justice Elena Kagan; the Tuesday group enjoyed a meeting with Justice Stephen Breyer at breakfast and a lunch meeting with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg - herself a lifetime member of Hadassah. On both days, the participants were also treated to a meeting with the 10th Marshal (and the first woman Marshal) of the Court, Pamela Talkin, who had previously arranged for our groups to use the historic East Conference Room throughout our days at the Court.
A tour of the majestic Supreme Court Library - led by the head librarian, Linda Maslow and her extremely knowledgeable staff members - was also part of both days’ itineraries; the library staff had even assembled a special collection of material related to Justice Louis Brandeis, which made our groups feel even more welcome.
My Co-chair, Tema Sternberg, and the rest of our Swearing In Committee, Lynn Altshuler, Esq., Dawn Goldstein, Esq., and Beth Saltzman Aaronson, Esq. - and the PRAZE Division (under whose umbrella the National Attorneys’ Council sits) - uniformly agreed that this 48 hour whirlwind was a “SUPREME” experience, and an extraordinary Hadassah program for participants and organizers alike. In fact, the only - and I mean only - “downside” of this once-in-a-lifetime event is the fact that participation is strictly limited to 12 attorneys per day. We encourage early commitments for the 2015 program, plans for which are already well underway!
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Deborah B. Kahn
Co-Chair, Swearing In Committee
New York, New York