Supreme Court Will Stick with Some Seriatim Argument This Fall

The experiment, instituted for remote arguments, seems to have been judged to have been a success. [UPDATE: Note the correction, which I hope is indeed correct ....]


From the Supreme Court's Guide for Counsel, which has apparently just been updated (emphasis added):

Your argument time is normally limited to 30 minutes ….

The Court generally will not question lead counsel for [a party] during the first two minutes of argument. The white light on the lectern will illuminate briefly at the end of this period to signal the start of questioning….

When the Marshal activates the white light and leaves it illuminated, there are five minutes of argument time remaining. When the red light comes on, counsel may finish responding to a question that is pending, but should not present a summation.

Once an attorney's time has expired, each Justice will have the opportunity to question that attorney individually. Questioning will proceed in order of seniority, beginning with the Chief Justice. During this round of questioning, counsel should respond directly to the questions posed, and should not make additional arguments not responsive to the question.

So it appears that each argument will be:

  1. two minutes of head start,
  2. 28 minutes of free-for-all (if the "activates the white light and leaves it illuminated" happens five minutes before the 30 minutes are up), and
  3. seriatim questioning by the Justices.

UPDATE: I originally somehow missed the free-for-all minutes, and thought it was going to be all seriatim, after the two-minute opening statement; but it now seems to me that the result is this sort of hybrid (which would make arguments rather longer than they were). I welcome further correction, if I've misunderstood this.

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  1. You beat Josh to it.

  2. This system, while more orderly, tends to group the questioners by ideology, as, obviously, their seniority follows the Presidents that appointed them. Start with Roberts, then Thomas, and conclude with the three Trump appointees. The liberals get scattered in the middle.

    1. Perhaps, following the Chief, it would be better to use a random order that would change with each case (or day).

  3. So we’re completely dropping the pretence that the questions are actually responsive to something counsel said, or are there potentially many rounds of questions?

  4. Eugene, I think you’ve got this slightly wrong. The sequential questioning begins only after counsel’s time is up — i.e., at the end of the 30 minutes (or less, if time is reserved for rebuttal) allotted for the argument. Free-for-all questioning is still allowed starting after the initial two minutes and continuing until the allotted time has elapsed. This is a hybrid model, mixing both traditional questioning and sequential questioning. The consequence is that total argument time will almost certainly expand beyond the traditional 30 minutes per side.

  5. Originalists must be jumping from bridges. Poor bastards.

    1. You are a moron. The US Constitution says nothing about this, so originalists don’t have a dog in this fight.

      1. I am your better. If I am a moron, you must be an idiot or an imbecile. Which is it?

        Be nicer, clinger, or your betters might start positioning that progress sideways before shoving it down conservatives’ whining, bigoted, powerless throats.

        Figuratively, of course.

        So . . . be nicer, or prepare for life without the magnanimity of the culture war’s victors.

  6. After this court proceeding and the Justices go into deliberations, are they allowed to reach back to a party to ask for clarification?

    Obviously you’d think between the written briefs and oral presentations, all issues would be addressed, but it has to be possible, during deliberations, questions would arise.

    And I would hope the Justices have the best info available.

    1. To my knowledge, they never do. If they thought there was some reason they couldn’t decide the case on the briefs and argument presented, they would reschedule it for another argument. That’s very rare.

  7. Alito is a liberal?

    1. Sorry. This was supposed to be a response to F.D. Wolf.

    2. No, but he’s in the middle breaking up the liberals. After Thomas it’d be Breyer, Alito, Kagan, Sotomayor, then Trump’s justices.

  8. The Supreme Court adopts the baseball game-clock. And the wise petitioner will book the rebuttal time (in advance, now), because there’s no telling where the seriatum gauntlet will leave things.

    Mr. D.

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