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Supreme Court Watchers Vie For Front Row Seats


Today the U.S. Supreme Court begins hearing oral arguments on the president's health care law. Six hours of arguments will be spread over three days. The court rarely takes that much time for a case. There are only 400 seats available inside the court. Outside the court, people began lining up as early as last Friday to get what they think could be a front row seat to history. NPR's Sonari Glinton reports from the steps of the Supreme Court.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: The weather in Washington this weekend was all over the place - hot sun, heavy rain, cold nights. Kathy McClure is a lawyer from Atlanta. She was one of the first people on line and she showed up with just a chair.

KATHY MCCLURE: And I had nothing to cover up with it. So someone was going to Target, and they got me this sleeping bag and a pad, and that got me through the first night. Oh, and an umbrella - critical element.

GLINTON: McClure is a supporter of the health care law, she says, because both of her adult children have preexisting conditions.

MCCLURE: So I put my life on hold, I was willing to endure driving rain and freezing temperatures and cold feet and, you know, food from who knows where in order to participate and just see what's going on.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) They are weak but he is strong...

GLINTON: Over the weekend, the court has been a gathering place. There's been a number of rallies, and many have come to pray and fellowship.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) Yes, Jesus loves me...

GLINTON: Mike Crowder is a minister from the suburbs of Salt Lake City. He opposes the health care law and he's come to pray for the justices.

MIKE CROWDER: This whole mandate, regardless of how people have perceived it, it has awakened the people of faith all across this country. People are beginning to see, whoa, wait a minute. Maybe these things that I think aren't that important, don't deal with me on a day-to-day - maybe they will come in and deal with me and my church and how I live my life.

GLINTON: Most of the people on this line in front of the court are professional line standers. They're getting paid to hold someone's place in line. The company they work for gets paid upwards of $30 an hour to hold the place. The people doing the standing get a fraction of that amount. But there are some who are waiting for themselves, hoping to get their own peek at history.

BROOKS SILVA-BRAGGA: I don't know if you've ever done it, but being inside the Supreme Court during any case is a real treat. And to come for a case this historic seemed like an opportunity I didn't want miss.

GLINTON: Brook Silva-Braga says he got hooked on the court about a year ago when he and his girlfriend came from New York to see a case in person.

SILVA-BRAGGA: We had such a good time and thought it was so interesting, we like vowed then to come back whenever health care came before the court. And in that intervening year we actually broke up, but we decided to come down together anyway.

GLINTON: Silva-Braga, who produces documentary films, points out over the weekend many times members of the press have rivaled or outnumbered those standing in line. Now the attention switches from people lined up outside the court to the nine justices who will sit down inside. Reporting from the steps of the United States Supreme Court, Sonari Glinton, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton
Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.