When The Daily Show aired last week, minus Jon Stewart, University of New Mexico School of Law 2013 graduate Brian Parrish had a closeup view when the discussion turned to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Parrish was the invitee of show guest Tom Goldstein, founder and publisher of SCOTUSblog, an attorney and law student-written blog that features both keen legal analysis and “plain English” translation of the court’s cases, along with links to briefs.
SCOTUSblog (for Supreme Court of the United States) was launched in 2002 by Goldstein and his wife, Amy Howe.
In the decade-plus since, it has become a go-to venue for legal reporting on the nation’s highest court. Besides blogging, Goldstein has argued 28 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and teaches Supreme Court litigation at Stanford and Harvard as well as maintaining his Washington, D.C., law practice.
Goldstein had a longstanding date to be a guest on the comedy and public affairs show to analyze the court’s opinions in the just-concluded term – some of them jaw-dropping.
During a speech both funny and inspiring to the UNM School of Law in May – his first gig as a commencement speaker – Goldstein casually dropped an offer to have one of the new graduates join him at the Daily Show taping.
Goldstein said he’d foot the bill for plane fare to New York and the hotel.
Interim Dean Barbara Bergman opted for a lottery to select the candidate, and Parrish won it on his 40th birthday.
The bird’s-eye view turned out to be in the back row, but that was just fine.
Parrish watched with SCOTUSblog staff as Goldstein gamely tried to explain the term “argle-bargle” used in Justice Antonin Scalia’s explosive dissent in the gay marriage opinion and weigh in on its significance.
Parrish blog staffers also at the taping were generous with information about the operational intensity of their work when justices dump multiple important decisions within a short period of time, as they did last week.
It was just the latest tick on a wildly eclectic résumé for Parrish.
He has worked back stage at an Indigo Girls concert and Opera Carolina as an electrician in IATSE, the local union for stagehands and allied craftsmen.
He worked on a project mapping an oil spill on the Persian Gulf for the government of Saudi Arabia in 120-degree heat.
As a college student on a community service scholarship at Davidson College in his native North Carolina, he wrote a grant for plane fare to Kolkata and then showed up to work at one and then another of Mother Theresa’s charities.
After a summer of loading trucks, he spent five months in China, studying Mandarin and playing in The City Band with three Chinese rockers who performed Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash and Rage Against the Machine covers at ex-pat bars in Beijing, and needed someone to help set up and translate.
Parrish, an endurance mountain cyclist until a bad accident persuaded him that he needed a job that doesn’t involve hard physical labor, is, like most of his law school class, spending the summer studying for the bar exam.
Come September, he’ll clerk for New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Richard Bosson and test his toes in the world of law.
He became intrigued by law while reading Plato while studying for a master’s degree at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, where he still lives.
“Even if I never practice law,” he said, “it hasn’t been a waste of money.”
He says he can’t imagine not doing something in the law based on his experience at the law school, including taking a class on appellate law taught by Appeals Court Judges Michael Bustamante and Jonathan Sutin.
“Law in its best moments provides a buffer zone that keeps things tolerable in conflict,” he said. It’s about “mediating dissonant forces in society.”