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The Supreme Court was 40 minutes into a routine oral argument on Oct. 31, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asking a question. Suddenly, a shot rang out — or so it seemed. It was actually an exploding light bulb in the coffered ceiling high above the justices, but it sounded to one eyewitness like a flash-bang grenade used to disorient the enemy. The explosion did cause momentary confusion; Ginsburg jumped from her seat as Court police moved toward the bench, uncertain what was under way. Bits of glass rained down on the swallowtail morning coats of Court clerk William Suter and deputy clerk Gary Kemp, seated near Ginsburg. Seconds later, Justice Stephen Breyer rendered his verdict: “Light bulb went out!” Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. cut the tension, laughingly calling the incident “a trick they play on new chief justices all the time.” Justice Antonin Scalia added, “Happy Halloween!” The lawyer before the Court was Kim Martin Lewis, a partner at the Cincinnati firm Dinsmore & Shohl, who was arguing her first case, Central Virginia Community College v. Katz. “It absolutely sounded like a shot,” Lewis said afterward. “It scared the heck out of me.” But back home, she has been telling friends, “At least the justices won’t forget me.”
Tony Mauro can be contacted at [email protected].

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