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CCU Atheneum: Julietta Marks, Lauren Hall, Frederick Wood, Eddie Dyer, Kaylee Yates
Julietta Marks, Lauren Hall, Frederick Wood, Eddie Dyer, Kaylee Yates

Dyer leads his final student trip to Washington

by Martha Hunn
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The catchphrase in education today is “experiential learning,” ensuring that students gain relevant experiences outside the classroom that help reinforce what they learn in their formal studies. It’s the approach that Eddie Dyer chose to employ in his everyday teaching decades ago, creating a culture of learning through memorable and relevant experiences.

So when a small group of his students approached him 30 years ago with the idea of seeing the U.S. Supreme Court in action, he committed to find the funding. These students had been arguing landmark cases in the classroom all semester, and this was their chance to experience the real deal. That first trip to Washington, D.C., on the Saturday following Thanksgiving in 1985 would become an annual tradition for Dyer’s constitutional law classes.

Dyer will retire from his position as executive vice president and chief operating officer for Coastal Carolina University on June 30, after a distinguished 39-year career of teaching political science and serving in numerous leadership roles in the University’s administration. On Thanksgiving weekend 2014, Dyer led his final Washington tour; he is passing the reins to Frederick Wood, associate professor of politics, who plans to carry on the tradition.

“The new term is experiential learning. In our department we call it ‘high impact learning’,” Wood said. “Eddie Dyer’s been doing it for 30 years; they just didn’t have a name for it.” Wood believes the D.C./Supreme Court trip is a “lifelong lesson” for students. “When I think of Eddie, I think of the relationships he’s built with his students, still talking about them as if they were in his class last semester.”

Having had the good fortune to be a student of Dyer's from 1979 to 1982, I vividly remember immersing myself in constitutional law, and then arguing cases before the class. It was pretty intimidating, but also invigorating, a blend of emotions that helped solidify the memories. Knowing from a personal perspective how those experiences helped shape my own future, I was intent on capturing this final experience in various stories for CCU’s television program and YouTube channel, Coastal Now, and for several publications. Videographer Bryan Stalvey documented the event.

Three select students in Wood’s judicial process class participated – Julietta Marks, Lauren Allen and Kaylee Yates – along with Wood, several staff members and Dyer’s wife Cynthia. It was “all aboard” the Chanticleer bus at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 29. The long but entertaining ride featured a few quips and pertinent tour notes from Dyer, intermingled with a couple of classic movies. But the back-and-forth bantering and borderline tug-of-war between seasoned bus driver Harold Benjamin and Dyer over the most desirable route to D.C. was most amusing. We arrived in D.C. around sundown, wrapping up with a grab-n-go supper at Union Station and instructions for the next day’s events – a “monumental” tour of historical capital city sights.

Sunday morning began with sightseeing by bus through key governmental areas including Embassy Row, the Vice President’s home, Foggy Bottom, the White House and the Lincoln Memorial, all highlighting fun facts – “Eddie-style.” The tour’s main event – a solemn changing of the guard at Arlington National Cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier – demonstrated a profound commitment to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for American freedom.

That evening, Dyer briefed the group on the detailed formalities of the Supreme Court so everyone would be ready for the strict protocols. As in years past, he had made exhaustive arrangements prior to the visit.

This particular session would have an added twist, as Timothy Meacham, CCU university counsel, and Beverly “BJ” Landrum, associate university counsel and chief compliance officer, were to be admitted into the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States. Already a member of this distinguished group, Dyer sponsored the two and would address the court, presenting their names before the justices.

The following morning, after a brisk walk to the entrance of the U.S. Supreme Court Building, Wood reminded us of procedures inside, which included keeping our voices at a whisper. We moved past the very long line forming outside and into the door marked “Visitor Entrance,” then hustled through two thorough security stations. Security escorted our group upstairs to the cloakroom, where we locked up personal items. Meacham and Landrum waited with their spouses and Dyer in a special line for the Bar inductees and sponsors. Supreme Court pages ushered us into the courtroom and seated us on a long bench. In a carefully orchestrated move, each row filed in, filling the courtroom to the brim. The piercing eyes of an exceedingly serious marshal kept watch over us; I could literally feel his gaze. The row in front of us was lined with young adults in suits, some sitting at attention and others fidgeting. A cluster whispered and snickered at times, only to receive the marshal’s glare. Twenty-something clerks flittered back and forth behind the dais hauling documents and fiddling with notes. And then, we heard the famous words, “All rise.” Together we stood at attention as the seven entered one by one and seated themselves.

First up, Chief Justice John G. Roberts called the Court to Order and proceeded with attorneys under consideration for induction. When it was Dyer’s turn to address the Court, he stood before the justices and calmly, confidently spoke, “Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court. I move the admission of Beverly Landrum and Timothy Edward Meacham, both of the Bar of the State of South Carolina. I’m satisfied that each possesses the necessary qualifications.” The Justices unanimously confirmed, and with that, the two were admitted into the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Docket No. 13-1041, Perez v. the Mortgage Bankers Association and Nichols v. the Mortgage Bankers Association, was up next, a case that asked the question, “Must a federal agency engage in a notice-and-comment procedure before it can significantly alter an interpretation of a rule of agency regulation?” Deputy Solicitor General Edwin S. Kneedler of the Department of Justice presented on behalf of the petitioner, the Secretary of Labor, while Allyson N. Ho argued on behalf of the respondent, the Mortgage Bankers Association. Packed in like sardines, we tried not to breathe too loudly as we listened. The attorneys made their arguments as the justices questioned them. Each side had 30 minutes to make their presentation.

There they were – Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Justice Samuel A. Alito, Justice Elena Kagan, Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – eloquently expressing their opinions, firmly planting their positions. Then, as quickly as it began, Chief Justice Roberts thanked the counselors, the cases were submitted, and we quietly filed out the side doors, now able to breathe a little more normally and whisper with slightly more volume.

Congratulations were shared all around followed by a few moments of reflection on the events of the day. Julietta Marks, a second semester junior political science major, loves global policy and is a self-described “dork” for travel and learning about other cultures. “My biggest takeaway is understanding the judicial process. I am already in the South Carolina Student Legislature, so I’ve got a hand in the legislative branch, and now I have a better understanding of the judiciary. I would like to have all three branches of government well understood by the time I’m done at Coastal.”

“I think the students who come here to see an oral argument really don’t realize what’s going on in all the drama and comedy,” Dyer said. “It’s sort of a scripted, orchestrated debate. The justices debate with each other, but they use the attorneys as their mouthpieces. The students see how the justices are thinking, how these justices structure their questions to support their own positions to elicit the appropriate answers that they want for the record for their side of the opinion,” he concluded.

Lauren Allen, second semester junior, pre-law major said. “I thought it was comical, actually, how they always kept interrupting everybody. Justice Scalia was hilarious. He made me laugh. It was so cool to be there, hear it all and see how everything worked.”

Wood hopes the students learn that “it’s the argument that matters. It doesn’t matter what you look like, which law school you went to. Once you get up there and you’re arguing in front of the justices, it matters what you have to say. It really is about their ability to make an argument, to answer hard questions asked by the justices, and that’s what they should be striving for.”

 

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