By FOX News Radio's Jared Halpern at the United States Supreme Court in Washington
The sun was just starting to rise over the United States Supreme Court when I noticed the first costume.
A "Tea Party Patriot," dressed in a fashion reminiscent of the Continental Army and waving a Gadsden Flag he bragged was signed by one-time GOP Presidential hopeful Herman Cain. He'd traveled here from his home in Brunswick, Georgia, hopeful the High Court would render the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.
A few minutes later, other Tea Party supporters arrived to stand shoulder to shoulder with the costumed-activist.
By 8 o'clock in the morning, the scene outside the Court had taken on a carnival atmosphere. Activists on both sides of the healthcare debate were beating drums, chanting and proudly displaying homemade signs. A pair of belly dancers, midriffs bare and bells on fingers, danced to the beat next to a sign demanding single payer health coverage.
By 9 a.m., just an hour before THE OPINION was released, the sidewalk leading to the Supreme Court steps was at peak capacity and almost deafening.
Then near silence inside the esteemed building.
Oyez Oyez Oyez.
The traditional call to order at the Supreme Court, was early, made at 9:59:45 a.m. A full 15 seconds before 10 o'clock.
Chief Justice John Roberts first announced an opinion that, on any other day, would have been a significant decision. Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy read the opinion in United States v. Alvarez, a ruling which overturned a Federal law making it a crime to lie about earning the Congressional Medal of Honor. Kennedy read his First Amendment defense in just a few minutes. Justice Samuel Alito opted not to read his dissent.
The Justices were not so naïve to know why the larger than usual crowd was in the chamber. First American Financial Corp. v. Edwards was the only other case still to be decided, and the Court handled it swiftly, dismissing it in just one sentence.
Then the chaos.
Before the Chief Justice had the words "National Federation of Independent Business" out of his mouth, the Court's public information officers were frantically handing out the nearly 200 page opinion, concurrence and dissent in the healthcare challenge.
Reporters, producers and interns all received the hulking package of legalese at roughly the same time.
They all hit the Court's few exits at roughly the same time, too and, as if trying to qualify for the 200 meter dash at the upcoming Olympic games, raced down the steps to an anxiously awaiting public.
The next two hours outside the Court were louder than the two hours preceding the ruling. Two podiums, just a few feet apart, served as soapboxes for the Court's newest fans and newest foes.
As Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) defiantly vowed to Affordable Care Act opponents that the fight over the individual mandate was not over, at the podium (coincidently?) to her left...
Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) was surrounded by other Democrats and Affordable Care Act supporters.
And so it went, until bit by bit, the roar softened to a clamor before dying out to just the buzz and hum of cable news pundits and broadcast journalists.
The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments and offers opinions between October and June every year.
Some days are longer than others.
LISTEN to some of Jared Halpern's reporting on the Supreme Court's healthcare ruling: