- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

The Supreme Court yesterday let stand the Virginia law giving schoolchildren a minute each day to pray or meditate. The action was its first in the borrowed courtroom where the justices must remain because an anthrax discovery extended the quarantine of their 66-year-old edifice.
Issued without comment as one line in an 18-page orders list, the Virginia decision ended the American Civil Liberties Union's challenge of a state law that permits students to choose how to use their "minute of silence" and specifically makes prayer an option.
"This is the first time this court has met outside our building since it opened in 1935," Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist declared to the packed ceremonial courtroom at the federal courthouse at 333 Constitution Ave., after high court Marshal Pamela Talkin called the session to order with the traditional cry, "God save the United States and this honorable court."
Even the government's top courtroom lawyer, Solicitor General Theodore Olson, had to submit to three metal-detector searches in order to clear unprecedented security measures.
Supreme Court officers and Justice Department lawyers rubbed elbows with reporters in the hallways. Only the justices enjoyed the privacy of a separate entrance.
One insider said the high court will likely use the ceremonial courtroom at the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. Circuit through tomorrow, resuming business at its home stand Monday.
Information officer Kathy Arberg would confirm only one day at a time, saying justices will use the D.C. Courthouse this morning to hear a challenge to the federal ban on computerized pornography depicting "virtual children."
She said decontamination and new testing are needed. Anthrax spores were found over the weekend in the court's basement mailroom after anthrax was confirmed in an air filter at the court mail-inspection facility in Prince George's County.
No court employee was reported to have contracted anthrax or tested positive. All nine justices were given doxycycline and an unknown number of the 400 court workers got precautionary medication. Workers actually exposed to anthrax will get a 60-day supply of medicine, Mrs. Arberg said.
In the "minute of silence" case, the ACLU argued that Virginia's law "was enacted specifically to facilitate and encourage school prayer at that fixed time," unconstitutionally sanctioning prayer.
"Parents should make the decisions about their children's religious upbringing, not politicians or school officials," added the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
But state officials praised the court's refusal to hear the case, and conservative legal scholars predicted more laws like Virginia's nationwide.
"It guarantees Virginia's schoolchildren will continue to have a minute each day to reflect on their studies, to collect their thoughts, or, if they so choose, to bow their heads and pray," said Virginia Attorney General Randolph A. Beales.
"It will be no surprise if other states follow the lead of Virginia and adopt similar measures for their own school districts that meet the constitutional standards that exist in the Virginia law," said Jay Sekulow, counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice.
Before 1935, the high court had no courthouse and usually met in the old Senate chamber at the Capitol while justices worked at home with their law clerks. Individual justices still occasionally hold hearings in chambers, but never did the court meet anywhere else after building its elegant courtroom.
Yesterday, there were no red drapes from which justices could emerge near high-backed chairs in the usual three groups. So Justice Stephen G. Breyer led the single file line of nine justices up three steps to a bench not much higher than audience eye level.
Cloaked in robes sent from quarantined chambers, the justices sat much closer together than usual, with two stenographers uncharacteristically seated between them and the lectern from which lawyers argue.
It was familiar turf for Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas all D.C. Circuit alumni depicted among the 83 portraits adorning the walls.
When Chief Justice Rehnquist needed to exercise his back 40 minutes into the first case, he had no curtain behind which to take the usual 20-second walkabout. Instead, he rose and walked to one end of the bench and back, in full view while Assistant Solicitor General Jeffrey P. Minear continued speaking without missing a beat.
Less than a mile from their usual digs, the justices were much closer to street justice. Next door in Courtroom 18, U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle was presiding over Day One of Rasheed Rasheed's trial on gun and drug charges. Outside on the sidewalk was the familiar face of Daniel Martino who has brought his pro-life signs to the high court since 1989.
"I'm here because this is where the Supreme Court is," he said. "America is concerned about terrorism. Abortion is terrorism in the womb."
Kathleen Lyon arrived at 7 a.m. and was the first person in line for public seats. She came to see the outcome of a decision she helped write as a federal court law clerk. Miss Lyon, now an appellate staff lawyer at the National Labor Relations Board, helped draft U.S. District Judge James S. Gwin's 1997 decision on the forfeiture case.
Behind her in line were tourists Jim and Roseanne Cox of Van Wert, Ohio, who were among those abruptly expelled from the Supreme Court when it was closed after Friday's anthrax scare began.
Among lawyers helping fill six rows of public seating were Circuit Judge David Sentelle and in the front row former Solicitor General Drew S. Days III. Justice Breyer's wife, Joanna, was escorted to a section sometimes used as a jury box in major cases.
A sizable group not present were lawyers whose ceremonial admission to the Supreme Court Bar was canceled.
Despite the turmoil, one tradition did not fall by the wayside: Each lawyer arguing a case yesterday was presented the usual handmade quill pen souvenir.


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