Why Every Serious Student Needs to Check Out Oyez

If you find yourself scratching your head asking yourself what on Earth the Oyez Project is, don’t feel too bad, because you are definitely not alone. This project was started in 1997 by Jerry Goldman, a professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, and has since grown to become the world’s premier unofficial resource for recorded audio and video from sessions of the United States Supreme Court. Because of the wealth of information made available, the Oyez Project is not only a boon for law students who study the Supreme Court and Constitutional Law, but also for citizens in general who wish to keep up with the legal arguments and decisions taking place at the highest court in the land.

The Oyez Project and Why You Really Need to Check it Out

The word “oyez” has its roots in the the English court system, when the marshal of the court would bring the proceedings into session by repeating “Oyez!” three times in succession. Derived from the French pronunciation of the word “hear ye,” the tradition of using the word “oyez” began in England prior to the 18th century when legal French was often allowed to be used instead of English in the courtroom. The U.S. Supreme Court would later revive this tradition for its own use, and it continues to this day.

The Oyez Project began as an ingenious synthesis of interactive multimedia and academic content that transformed the typically dry and hard-to-follow sessions of the U.S. Supreme Court into something everyone could learn from and have easy access to. Since then, the project has developed into a web-based tour de force that uses text, images, sound and video to help people to closely follow the goings on of the Supreme Court.

One of the greatest aspects of the project is its comprehensive listing of Supreme Court cases that have occurred since its beginnings in 1793. One of the most renowned cases covered by the Oyez Project is the 1803 legal battle between William Marbury and James Madison. The settlement of this case would go on to determine the power of the Supreme Court to set national legal precedent, thereby elevating the court to a much more influential place among the three branches of American government. While we won’t be able to find audio or video clips of this landmark Supreme Court case, the Oyez Project does an excellent job organizing important information about the case in a way that is easy to read and understand.

A more recent case covered by the Oyez project, the 2008 Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission, is also one of its most controversial and least understood by citizens in general. The case is controversial due to the fact that its resolution made it legally acceptable for union and corporate entities to pool their cash for political contributions, which many believe disenfranchises individual voters who no longer possess the money, time or resources to influence government as a result. The site does an excellent job at neutrally summarizing the key facts of the case, as well as the important questions that were brought up during the session.

Another fascinating part of the Oyez Project is its section on the many Supreme Court justices who have served throughout the history of the United States. The site hosts great information about justices and chief justices from the court’s beginnings with Chief Justice John Jay, to the court as it stands today, with Chief Justice John Roberts presiding. This is an excellent resource for learning the history of the Supreme Court through understanding the varied histories of the many justices who helped shape the court into what it is today.

Because of the sheer amount of useful information provided by the Oyez Project, students across several different fields can use this site to find intellectually stimulating information about court decisions that directly apply to what they do. Cases brought before the U.S. Supreme Court over the course of its history have had a remarkable influence on the many different professions we prepare ourselves for academically, as well as the many civil rights and liberties we are granted as both students and citizens of the United States.

Students are not the only ones who could significantly benefit from checking out the Oyez Project. All citizens of the United States should have more than just a basic familiarity with the court that has done so much to shape the way we go about our lives. The site makes it easy enough for the lay person to grasp some of the most important Supreme Court cases in American History, and it is organized in such a way that anyone can find search for and find individual cases that may directly impact them. Remember, in a democracy, it is both the right and the responsibility of the citizens to keep up with the doings of government, and there is no greater place to begin one’s investigation into the inner-workings of our legal system than here at the Oyez Project.

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