Monday, April 17, 2017
For those of you on the edge of your office chair waiting for the answer, it is no. You should not correct a judge's mispronunciation of a word.
The long (although not too long) answer can be found in my colleague James Duane's recent article May it Please the Court?: The Perils of Correcting a Justice's Pronunciation, which is being published by the Seton Hall Circuit Review. In the article, Jim recounts a trip to the United States Supreme Court that we took with several of our students to hear oral argument and meet with Justice Kagan. During argument in the case, one of the justices asked a question that mentioned the last antecedent rule. The justice pronounced "antecedent" in an unconventional manner. The advocate, who was quite skilled, used the more common pronunciation of the word "antecedent" in her response.
As he reflects in the article, Jim told us after the argument that he has "never contradicted a judge about the pronunciation of any word while arguing a case. I would instead either mimic the judge's mistaken pronunciation, or simply not use that word in my answer." Sound advice. Jim also avoids mentioning the particular justice and advocate in his article, but he provides a link to the oral argument. Tony Mauro, in this write up on Jim's article, includes a link to the audio.
This article is not Jim's only foray into the perilous task of appellate pronunciation. He also has a delightful (and short) piece in The Green Bag on how the Supreme Court is split on pronouncing the word "certiorari."