CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Monday, November 7, 2005

Did You Hear about the Trick the Supreme Court is Playing on First-Time Advocates?

It was Halloween day and first-time advocate Kim Martin Lewis, partner at the Cincinnati firm Dinsmore & Shohl, was deep into arguing her first Supreme Court case, Central Virginia Community College v. Katz, a case on state sovereignty and bankruptcyJustice Ginsburg was in the middle of asking a question, when a "shot" rang out...[O]ne eyewitness likened the noise to a flash-bang grenade, used in war to disorient the enemy...Ginsburg jumped from her seat and Court police approached the bench.  There was momentary alarm, before everyone realized, the "shot" was a lightbulb that exploded; glass fragments and flaming filament fell from the ceiling.

Lewis was shaken by the incident, "It absolutely sounded like a shot," Lewis said afterward. "There was this little ball of fire, and then the glass. It scared the heck out of me."  But Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. quickly moved to cut the tension.  This is just a trick "'they play on new chief justices all the time.' The remark had the desired effect, and people began laughing. Justice Antonin Scalia chimed in, 'Happy Halloween!'

And Ginsburg, barely missing a beat, started to resume her question. But Roberts could not resist one more crack: 'We're even more in the dark now than before,' he said, as the justices and spectators settled down. At the end of the argument, Roberts thanked the lawyers and apologized 'for the fireworks.'  Story from [Mark Godsey]

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