Sophomore political science major John Fucetola was first in line to get a seat into the most important legal proceeding of the year.
A line of bedraggled souls stretched around the corner of East Capitol and Second streets, as they waited more than 30 hours to get into the Supreme Court to witness oral arguments in Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s legal challenge against the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board.
In the case Bush called upon Supreme Court justices to rule the Florida Supreme Court’s decision to extend the dates for a recount in the election was illegal.
I have been here since 3:57 a.m. Thursday, Fucetola said. I have a true passion for the law, and the chance to witness this truly great historical event was worth the wait.
Several hundred other students and protesters from around the country shared Fucetola’s desire to witness history in the making – bringing tents, sleeping bags, blankets, food and several layers of clothing to brave the cold temperatures for the overnight stay.
Fucetola is no stranger to the visitor’s gallery at the Supreme Court.
I have been to several other proceedings here, he said. For those, since they were not as momentous, I would get here at 6 a.m. or so.
But Friday’s argument was different, and those who did wait were trying to make life as comfortable as possible. Some ordered pizza on their cell phones. One man camped in a tent and another brought a cot. Others just sat in huddled groups trying to keep warm despite the bitter Capitol Hill wind.
Fucetola said he wanted to be one of the lucky few allowed to witness the proceedings that the High Court decided this week would not be televised.
The first 50 people in line were allowed to sit in a visitor section of the courtroom for the entire 90-minute session.
Sophomore Chris Darminin, a political science major, was one of the first 50 people in line.
I have been sleeping out here all night, he said. At about (3 a.m.) I woke up because I was shivering so much.
Darminin waited with Jordan Usdan, a sophomore political communications major.
I got number 43 and, hopefully, they will allow us all in, Usdan said. Though you never know with these special events.
Tickets were a first-come, first-serve because there is no rule that determines how the tickets are distributed.
Fucetola said he and others conceived a method where they created tickets to ensure order in the line.
Fucetola said a roll call allowed people to step in and out of line and ensured that people were not cut out of the line.
The police have been grateful that we have made the tickets, and they have said that they will abide by our numbers when they hand out the tickets, Fucetola said.
Crowd members said others waiting in line made numerous attempts to cut ahead.
It is a little like (the television show) `Survivor’ out here, said Bryan Bean, a freshman at American University. People made alliances, traded places in line. It is cutthroat.
Not all were so vicious at the event. A local church brought coffee to many who had spent the night out in the cold.
Following the oral arguments Fucetola said, it was worth the wait.
He and the other 49 people who observed all 90 minutes of the court proceeding left the building met by a throng of reporters eager for information about the historic case.
Fucetola said he was interviewed by numerous reporters, including Diane Sawyer.
It was a terrific experience, he said. After the first 15 minutes or so of thick legal jargon you could begin to understand what they were talking about. After that it was fascinating to listen to each side present (their cases) and get cross examined.
Fucetola said justices centered on the key issues of the election controversy.
I think that the questioning was very well done, he said. The justices asked pointed specific questions that tried to get to the heart of the issues at hand. Chief Justice William Renquist, especially, moved to question the conflicts with state’s rights.