When former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was on the court, [lawyer Carter G. Phillips] recalled, she asked the first question so quickly and so predictably that there was little point in preparing an elegant opening argument. "Now you might get three or four minutes" without interruption, he said....A fascinating change in style. Who knows what it has to do with the content of the decisions we will receive from the Roberts Court?
Has Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., himself the veteran of 39 Supreme Court arguments as a lawyer, shared with his colleagues the perspective from the other side of the bench, or maybe even laid down some new rules?
The latter theory is unlikely; the court's ethos calls for signaling rather than rule-making. To the extent that the new chief justice is leading by example — and there is no doubt that he is in charge of the courtroom — he is offering a model of how to ask questions that are tightly phrased, penetrating and often the last thing a lawyer wants to hear.
May 2, 2006
Advice for advocates arguing to the Supreme Court. The Justices don't jump in with questions as they used to: