U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court's new hybrid argument format allows justices to continue taking turns

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SCOTUS group photo

The U.S. Supreme Court as composed Oct. 27, 2020, to present. Photo by Fred Schilling via the Supreme Court website.

When the U.S. Supreme Court resumes in-person oral arguments Oct. 4, it won’t return to the pre-pandemic questioning format.

Instead, the Supreme Court will adopt a hybrid format that combines the old style of jump-in-when-you-can questioning with the more orderly take-your-turn questioning that happened when justices participated by telephone.

Bloomberg Law, Law360 and SCOTUSblog are among the publications with coverage.

The Supreme Court revealed the change Tuesday in its new guide for counsels.

Under the new format, lawyers will make opening statements, and then the justices can jump in with questions, in no particular order.

“During this time,” according to SCOTUSblog, “the justices can presumably interrupt both the arguing lawyer and each other at will.”

After an attorney’s time has expired, each justice will have the opportunity to question the attorney individually, according to the guide. Questioning takes place in order of seniority, beginning with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

Justice Clarence Thomas had stayed mostly silent under the old style of arguments, once remarking that the barrage of questions made the court look like Family Feud. But Thomas became an active questioner during individual questioning.

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