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Supreme Court rulings tend to be illustrated in news reports by photos of the marble-columned exterior or by nondescript head shots of individual justices in black robes. Rarely does the public see images of the elegant courtroom, the flower-filled inner courtyards, the chandeliered library, or the ceremonial conference rooms lined with portraits of the 16 chief justices who preceded John Roberts since the country's founding. Rarely does the public see the staff members who support the justices.
Reuters captured not just the court and lawyers who argue cases, but Clerk of the Court Scott Harris, who handles the thousands of petitions that reach the justices each year, of which they select only about 70 to hear, as well as the gardeners and elevator operators. This is an institution that hews to tradition, and its elevators are still operated by hand.
Reuters sought to avoid highlighting any single day or case. One day turned out to be more notable than others, however. That was Feb. 13, when Justice Scalia died while on a hunting trip in Texas. His death, and the loss of a crucial fifth conservative vote, changed everything, and the session now coming to a close offers a contrast between what might have been and what is.