The closest I've ever come to contact with the Supreme Court came in the mid-1960s when I unfortunately was seated in front of former Justice Abe Fortas on a New York to California flight, and was nearly asphyxiated when he lit up a cigar -- which I thought was illegal. But then again, who was about to argue with a jurist on the nation's high court?

For many years thereafter, I pictured the chambers of the Supreme Court resembling a smoky jazz bar, with legal briefs substituted for brass and woodwinds. I envisioned the overflowing ashtrays after the Miranda decision in 1966 or Roe v. Wade some seven years later.

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