Just How Long Is 35 Feet? Even the Supreme Court Isn't Sure

PHOTO: The Justices of the US Supreme Court sit for their official photograph on October 8, 2010 at the Supreme Court in Washington.
Share
Copy

During oral arguments Wednesday, the justices of the Supreme Court engaged in the intellectual sparring that makes trials there a cornerstone of U.S. democracy.

Only it wasn't an arcane bit of legal minutia that stumped them; it was trying to figure out just how long is 35 feet.

During arguments about the constitutionality of a Massachusetts law that bans protestors from gathering less than 35 feet outside an abortion clinic, the justices were forced to put their spacial-relations skills to the test.

"You know, 35 feet is a ways. It's from this bench to the end of the court. And if you imagine the chief justice as sort of where the door would be, it's most of the width of this courtroom as well. It's -- it's pretty much this courtroom, kind of. That's a lot of space," Justice Elena Kagan said in describing the chamber, a room that measures 81 feet by 93 feet.

PHOTO: The Supreme Court chamber is seen in Washington, Aug. 26, 2011.
Jon Elswick/AP Photo
PHOTO: The Supreme Court chamber is seen in Washington, Aug. 26, 2011.

"I thought it was two car lengths," Justice Sonia Sotomayor said. "That's, I think, a little less than this courtroom."

PHOTO: Cars parked end-to-end.
Getty Images
PHOTO: Cars parked end-to-end.

"It is an NBA 3-point zone," Deputy Solicitor General Ian H. Gershengorn said, representing the government.

PHOTO: Indoor Basketball Court
Getty Images
PHOTO: Indoor Basketball Court

The case was brought by Eleanor McCullen, 77, and others who claim they are not boisterous protestors but only trying to have conversations with women entering clinics.

PHOTO: An anti-abortion protester stands at the painted edge of a buffer zone outside a Planned Parenthood location in Boston, Dec. 17, 2013.
Steven Senne/AP Photo
PHOTO: An anti-abortion protester stands at the painted edge of a buffer zone outside a Planned Parenthood location in Boston, Dec. 17, 2013.

null
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...