January 16, 2014

"Cruel or not, Scalia's disparagement of a lawyer who read his argument aloud..."

"... was not just a whim or personal pet peeve; it is based on the court's own rules and traditions."

25 comments:

damikesc said...

If I'm not mistaken, don't the Justices already have plenty of written material on the case before them?

Why would you read MORE crap at them?

Sam L. said...

So the lawyer did not study the play book and the rule book beforehand. Not smart. Unprepared.

FleetUSA said...

If you don't know your case well enough to present it without "reading", you shouldn't be before the highest court in the land. Notes maybe, but reading the entire thing?

Carol said...

Oh I hate it when anyone reads aloud to me. I zone right out. Yeah the guy should know his case so well that he can look into their eyes and speak extemporaneously about it. And see how easily he was derailed. What a moron.

shake-and-bake said...

In my first appearance before the DC Circuit, a case that preceded mine was argued by a member of the GWU law faculty. At least 30 of his students were there to observe. He began reading verbatim from a binder, and was quickly interrupted by the presiding judge who informed him of the court's rules and told him to stop reading. He couldn't handle it without the crutch, and his argument was an embarrassing disaster. That was 30 years ago - a powerful lesson for a young lawyer.

Bob Boyd said...

He should have stopped by and borrowed a teleprompter from the WH on the way to court.

EDH said...

Google glasses can work as a teleprompter, can't they?

Quayle said...

damikesc has it right.

You've already filed the written part.

The biggest insult you can give to a group of other intelligent people, and the greatest waste of their time, is to read to them something they can read themselves.

paminwi said...

I like the fact that the government lawyer did not have the facts he needed as the case progressed before the justices. What does that guy think, just because I represent the Obama administration I don't have o be prepared?

That statement made as a non-lawyer but interested in this kind of thing.

Paddy O said...

Ever been to an academic conference. It's all reading papers. No one's insulted. It's just how it is.

The Godfather said...

I've never appeared before the Supremes, but my experience in the D.C. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit, MD Court of Appeals, and MD Court of Special Appeals is that after you say your name and your well-memorized opening sentence, you're too busy answering questions to worry about reading anything. These are "hot" benches. From everything I read, the US Supreme Court is also "hot". The Virginia Supreme Court, the one time I appeared there, was a "cold" bench, and I could have read my argument or phoned it in and the Justices wouldn't have cared (but I won).

I'm sympathetic to Lechner, though, because early in my career I was presenting closing argument in a bench trial in DC Superior Court. The trial had been held over a couple of weeks, a few hours a day after the close of regular business in the court, usually ending around 9 or 10 pm. I was exhausted when I stood up to begin my closing argument, and my mind went completely blank. Fortunately, I had written out my argument as an organizational tool, and having it in front of me, I started to read it. After a few sentences, my mind kicked into gear, and I didn't need that crutch anymore. (I did, however, forget the name of Marbury v. Madison, which was relevant to answer a question from the judge -- who kindly reminded me of it.)

Big Mike said...

I guess the guy just couldn't count to 28. Must have gone to Harvard instead of MIT.

Titus said...

Anything and everything Scalia does and says is like totally perfect.

tits

madAsHell said...

Oh I hate it when anyone reads aloud to me. I zone right out.

yeah....state of the union addresses.

traditionalguy said...

Scalia and the other Supremes are human. They get bored with legal argument that is hollow and devoid of personal affection.

Sure they could bite their tongues and die of a unreal world disease, but having the power they demand more. Take a risk and tell them what bothers you about the reasoning of the cases and the facts in THIS case.

Fear is the enemy of being genuine before the powerful. And they hate that.

Alex said...

As soon as somebody starts reading at me, I zone out.

Kirk Parker said...

Paddy O,

You're talking about the boring part, aren't you? :-)



But to answer you question: yes I have; actually sitting in the session where someone read their paper was actually pretty boring, even if the subject and content weren't; and ... Ken Pike was never boring.

Elise Ronan said...

Scalia is known to be brilliant but mean spirited. Personally I feel bad for Lechner. I can understand how nervous he must have been to be arguing before the Supreme Court. Luckily Breyer has a little more genteel approach to recalcitrant attorneys.

On the other hand, when Scalia tore apart the government's attorney for not being able to answer basic questions about the land at the core of the lawsuit that was well deserved.

MadisonMan said...

Personally I feel bad for Lechner.

Why feel badly for an under-prepared lawyer? Feel badly for his clients.

If you read the link, you'll see that Lechner did get over his nerves and clicked into gear. He just needed Scalia to prompt him.

Scalia did him a favor.

Elise Ronan said...

@MadisonMan

Having read the article it showed that it was Breyer who provided the calm for Lechner to proceed uninhibited, intervening when Scalia was nasty. Bullying, and denigrating another individual, is not an appropriate way to teach people or garner respect.

Its important to remember that in life its not what you say alone but how you say it. Scalia did not prompt Lechner, if anything, as the article shows, Scalia's nastiness intimidated Lechner even more. It wasn't until Breyer spoke up, defusing the situation that Lechner was able to proceed.

Furthermore, Lechner was allowed to be nervous arguing before the Supreme Court for the first time. Even arguing before SCOTUS is a learned skill and not everyone can do it off the cuff.

I don't know about you, but in my world everyone isn't perfect all the time, even those attorneys who argue before SCOTUS (and yes I have had occasion to meet quite a few). And as the article showed it was the government's attorney that had no idea what he was doing. It is the US government that should be upset with their lawyer not Lechner's clients.

MadisonMan said...

It is the US government that should be upset with their lawyer not Lechner's clients.

I don't see this as an either-or.

Why can't both clients be upset with their lawyers? They were both underprepared.

I rather doubt they offered to refund some of their fees. Perhaps you don't expect excellence when you pay for legal work. I do.

LarsPorsena said...

Elise Ronan said...

@MadisonMan

Having read the article it showed that it was Breyer who provided the calm for Lechner to proceed uninhibited, intervening when Scalia was nasty. Bullying, and denigrating another individual, is not an appropriate way to teach people or garner respect.

__________________________________

Every organization has a daddy and a mommy. In this case Scalia is the daddy and Breyer is the mommy.

Mitch H. said...

Furthermore, Lechner was allowed to be nervous arguing before the Supreme Court for the first time.

According to the article, the man has had his name on dozens of SCOTUS briefs, if this is just the first time he's actually argued one of them, it probably was for a good reason. Subtext seems to be that he isn't a good public speaker and suggests that his outfit was either underfunded or underpowered to the point that he got pushed out in front for something he wasn't quite up to doing. I can relate, I'm a crap public speaker.

I find myself curious about the substance of the case - there are a ton of rails-to-trails paths in central Pennsylvania.

Kelly said...

I suppose for a lawyer, arguing in front of the supremes is like a team making it to the Super Bowl. My brother-in-law was the youngest lawyer to ever go before the Illinois Supreme Court. He was throwing up from nerves up until the moment he had to appear in court.

Mike said...

I disagree with Elise that Scalia's remark was nasty or bullying (God what an overused term that is).

Justice Antonin Scalia interrupted and asked: "Counsel, you are not reading this, are you?"

Any lawyer who is in the position of arguing before that court has got to know the etiquette. And I'm not convinced by the article that people quoted are not projecting their own feelings about Scalia when they describe their reaction to his -- at least on paper -- gentle questioning. Hell he could have really been a dick and rebuked him rather than framing the question as he did. Are lawyers who are allegedly at the top of their game really that sensitive as to wilt under a question of etiquette?