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Supreme Court Reveals How Oral Arguments in Big Cases Will Go During Pandemic


The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday released guidance revealing how the court will hear oral arguments by teleconference for the first time–beginning May 4–in a number of highly consequential cases that had previously been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a release from the court’s Public Information Officer Kathleen Arberg, all lawyers in cases to be argued on a particular day will take part in a conference call at approximately 9:15 a.m., when they will receive any last-minute instructions and be given the opportunity to ask any final questions before arguments begin at 10 a.m.

After the Marshal of the Court commences the session, Chief Justice John Roberts will call the first case and direct the first counsel to begin their argument.

Following “usual practice,” the Court will generally allow the petitioners and respondents to proceed with their arguments uninterrupted for the first two minutes, or one minute where the argument is divided and “counsel represents an amicus or an additional party.”

The justices will then ask questions in order of seniority, beginning with Chief Justice Roberts.

“At the end of this time, the Chief Justice will have the opportunity to ask questions. When his initial questioning is complete, the Associate Justices will then have the opportunity to ask questions in turn in order of seniority. If there is time remaining once all Justices have had the opportunity to question counsel, there may be additional questioning,” the guidance stated.

“Once the time for the first counsel’s argument has expired, the Chief Justice will thank counsel for their argument, and acknowledge the next attorney. This process will continue until argument in the case is complete. Counsel for the petitioner in each case will be allotted three minutes for rebuttal. If there is a second case to be argued that day, the Chief Justice will call that case promptly after the end of the first argument, and the same process will be followed.”

The proceedings will conclude with an announcement from the Marshal of the Court.

The first case to be argued is Patent & Trademark v. The Court will hear a trio of cases surrounding President Donald Trump’s tax returns on May 12.

You can find both the Court’s May schedule and the format for oral arguments below.

SCOTUS MonthlyArgumentCalMa… by Law&Crime on Scribd

SCOTUS Press Release 4.28.20 by Law&Crime on Scribd

[image via ERIC BARADAT/AFP/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.