You can not walk up to the entrance, but only get to come out that way. The cafeteria and restrooms can be accessed in the basement to the left, but don't leave line until you get your number.
I would recommend six in the morning. If you follow other's advice and come at seven or eight, it might be too late. A lot of it depends on the cases that are being heard. Over 10,000 cases are submitted to the Supreme Court each year but less than 100 are heard.
The ten o'clock case on this particular day had to do with generic drugs and whether they should be under the same scrutiny as brand name drugs (Actavis vs Gladys Mensing). The case I heard was regarding AT & T being told they have to provide certain connections for other companies (Talk America vs. Mich Bell Telephone).
If you are lucky (Allison was not lucky....it was just cold on my day), the sun will come up. If it is cold, dress in layers! I opted not to take my big cameras but there would have been room in the locker for them. Be sure and have a quarter with you. You will also have to stow your overcoat and scarf there and any books. Basically all you can take with you is your purse. The rest, you have to leave in the locker. You will go through another metal detector before you go into the courtroom. Don't fall asleep in there or you will be asked to leave and don't chew gum!
The line will begin forming between the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress.
I loved the rosy glow the buildings had on them as the sun came up. I asked Crystal to snap this photo of me.
Eventually, they will move the line up near the steps. Be sure to be in single file line when the numbers are handed out.
This group of college students from London were in line behind me and I really enjoyed talking to them. They went in the three minute line when we did not make it in for the first argument as there is no guarantee there will be any more taken in for the second argument.
In addition to the college students, I made friends with Crystal, from New Orleans. She is friends with one of the attorneys for the first case so she also opted to go to the three minute line.
Here is what the card looks like. They will take them up after the first group is taken in. You then have the option to get in the three minute line or to stay and try for the 11:00 argument. They will then come and give you new numbers. One of the people in front of me switched so my number ended up being 60. I would say they must have taken in an additional twenty for the second argument, but it is different every day. Sometimes they even have afternoon arguments. You can check the docket on the Supreme Court website.
It is entertaining just to watch the photo moments in front of the Supreme Court, such as this group doing their "jump".
I read in The Daily the next day that Justice Scalia had a wreck on the way to work on this day. His BMW had to be towed and he was issued a ticket. I guess that was one of the reasons he seemed a little grumpy. Some of the justices were cracking jokes with the attorneys. I am surprised that he was driving himself to the court, but I guess it is a personal preference.
I feel very fortunate to have made it into the courtroom. I had been there on a tour, but not when court was in session. It is definitely worth the try, but get there early and dress warmly if it is cold. I never was uncomfortable, but I had several layers of clothing!