Gretchen Rubin

A Little Happier: The Building of the Supreme Court Gives Me the “America Feeling.”

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One of my hobbies as a writer is making official notices, signs, and messages more succinct. I can’t see a sign without trying to edit it for length and clarity in my mind. It’s an occupational hazard of writers.

And maybe it’s a lawyer thing, too.

I remember one afternoon during the time when I was clerking for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Usually, I ate in the clerks’ dining room in the Supreme Court building itself, but on this particular day some fellow law clerks and I had gone out to a restaurant for lunch, to celebrate a birthday.

On our return, we were walking up to the Supreme Court building. It’s a beautiful, monumental building, and we all paused a moment to look at it.

I looked at the inscription that appears in enormous letters across the front of the building, and read it out loud: “Equal Justice Under Law.”

One of my co-clerks said, “Huh. That’s redundant. It doesn’t need to say all that.”

“Why?” I said.

“It could just say ‘Justice.’ Justice means, equal justice under law.”

But for once, I think I prefer the wordier version. “Equal justice under law.”

It’s one of the great dreams of the United States, and I get the America feeling every time I see that building, or even a picture of it. We don’t always have equal justice under law. That inscription declares one of our country’s most essential aims, and it’s a reminder that we must all work to protect and further justice.

Quote From the Podcast

'Equal justice under law.' That inscription declares one of our country’s most essential aims, and it’s a reminder that we must all work to protect and further justice.
Gretchen Rubin

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