U.S. Supreme Court

Think Oral Arguments Are Important? Think Again, Justice Alito Says


Supreme Court litigators don’t speak much more than the justices during oral arguments, according to a first-hand participant, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Justices are “pushing 50 percent” in the number of words spoken at oral argument, Alito told lawyers at a Law Day gathering in St. Louis on Monday. As a result, he said, oral arguments aren’t all that important, despite a popular belief to the contrary. Instead, he asserted, what’s important are the briefs and the preparation.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch covered Alito’s speech, in which he covered the top 10 misconceptions about the Supreme Court. He also cited these, according to the article:

• Justices hand off all the work to their law clerks. Actually, “We are very independent,” he said. “We are not manipulated by our clerks.”

• The court is “pro business.” Alito recalled seeing one television commentator assert that Alito had previously worked for the Chamber of Commerce. “I wondered if I was suffering from amnesia and thought I’d better check my resumé,” Alito said. “The only employers I’ve ever had have been the Department of Justice and the Supreme Court. I’ve never earned an honest living.”

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