Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Another oral argument anecdote - Chief Justice Roberts lets advocates continue past the red light

Among the perennial advice to 1L's prepping for their first moot court arguments this semester is to tell them that when the red light comes on, they need to stop mid-sentence (and ask the court for permission to finish which it may or may not grant).

This article courtesy of notes that former Chief Justice Rehnquist was a real stickler when it came to the time allotted to argue, routinely "cutting lawyers off in mid-syllable when the red light went on."  'Course, that's not so surprising given how scrupulously punctual the Chief Judge was in his personal life.

Chief Justice Roberts?  Not so much.  He's a much more laid back dude:

It's not uncommon for him to let lawyers finish their thoughts after the red light goes on, and he'll add extra rebuttal time if he feels it's needed for fairness. Roberts' different approach was on display Wednesday during the dense and complex arguments in Samantar v. Yousuf, which asks whether former officials of foreign governments are immune from lawsuits under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

Patricia Millett of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld represented victims of torture in Somalia who were suing former Somali defense minister Mohamed Samantar. She was winding up a forceful finish when the red light at her lectern went on, signifying the end of her allotted 20 minutes. She kept talking and when she noticed the light, she said, "Forgive me." Roberts told her, "Finish your sentence." Fourteen lines -- and several sentences -- later, according to the transcript, Millett finished. Perhaps ruing his generosity, Roberts joked, "You made that a long sentence."

You can read the rest of the story here.

I am the scholarship dude.


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