Cases Argued in the United States
Preparing Cases for Argument before the Supreme Court
The Clerk will notify attorneys in charge of a case when the Court enters an order noting probable jurisdiction, postponing jurisdiction, or granting a petition for a writ of certiorari. attorneys in charge of a case will be furnished written instructions concerning information on
the preparation and filing of the joint appendix and the briefs on the merits.
The Merits Cases Clerk relies upon those lawyers listed as counsel of record for all communications, as do parties interested in filing amicus briefs when making their requests for letters of consent. When a party changes counsel of record, or when any party of a multi-party
side of a case originally represented by one lawyer at the petition stage chooses to retain separate counsel of record, a letter reflecting the change must be submitted to the Clerk
and all other counsel of record.
Oral Argument: Scheduling and Preparation
Oral arguments are normally conducted from October through April. A two-week session is held each month with arguments scheduled on Monday through Wednesday of each week. For more information about oral argument before the Supreme Court, click here.
Oral Argument: Seating for Counsel
After attorneys in charge of a case have met with the Clerk and received your identification
card, they should report to the Courtroom officials inside the railing to be assigned an appropriate seat. For more information about oral argument before the Supreme Court, click here.
Oral Argument: in the Courtroom – Order of Business
Arguing attorneys in charge of a case and their co-counsel should be settled in the Courtroom and seated in their assigned seats at the counsel tables about five minutes before Court is scheduled to convene. For more information about oral argument before the Supreme Court, click here.
Lawyers Argument before the Supreme Court
For more information about lawyers arguing before the supreme court, read here.
Preparation of the Argument
Many attorneys find it very educational to attend a Courtroom session before their scheduled argument day. If attorneys in charge of a case choose to do this, feel free to visit the Clerk’s Office and introduce yourself to the Clerk. The same applies to the Marshal.
The argument time of attorneys in charge of a case is normally limited to 30 minutes. They need not use all your time. Counsel for the respondent in Whitfield v. United States, 543 U. S. 209 (2005) successfully argued for only 10 of the allotted 30 minutes. Other examples of successful brief arguments are: Burgess v. United States, 553 U. S. 124 (2005) (respondent argued seven
of the allotted 30 minutes); Logan v. United States, 552 U. S. 23 (2007) (respondent argued 10 of the allotted 30 minutes); United States v. Clintwood Elkhorn Mining Co., 553 U. S. 1 (2008) (petitioner argued 17 of the allotted 30 minutes); United States v. Ressam, 553 U. S. 272 (2008) (petitioner argued 17 of the allotted 30 minutes); and United States v. Marcus, 560 U. S. 258 (2010) (petitioner argued 16 of the allotted 30 minutes).
The Supreme Court is not a jury. A trial lawyer tries to persuade a jury with facts and emotion. Attorneys in charge of a case should try to persuade this Court by arguing points of law. Their argument should focus only on the question or questions presented in the petition that was granted. Attorneys in charge of a case should not deviate from it.
Attorneys in charge of a case should assume that all of the Justices have read the briefs filed in your case, including amicus curiae briefs.
They expect questions from the Court, and they should make every effort to answer the questions directly. If at all possible, they should say “yes” or “no,” and then expand upon your answer if they wish. If attorneys in charge of a case do not know the answer, they should say so.
They should anticipate what questions the Justices will ask and be prepared to answer those questions.
Other before the Supreme Court
Courtroom seating is extremely limited. Spectators from the general public are seated first come, first seated, either for an entire argument or on a short (three minute) rotation. Groups can request reserved seating of up to 15 persons by writing the Marshal of the Court as far in advance as possible. Seating for groups is very limited. For more information about seating in the supreme courtroom, read here.
After a case has been argued, the Court will vote at a Conference, and the case will be assigned to a Justice to write the majority opinion. Opinions may be handed down at any time after the argument. The only information the Clerk or his staff can give you in this regard is that cases argued during the Term are usually decided before the end of June. For more information about decisional process in the supreme court, read here.
If the certified record of the proceedings below has not been filed previously in this Court, the Clerk will request the clerk of the court possessing the record to certify and transmit it to this Court.
Joint Appendix and Merits Briefs
- Preparation. Rules 25, 26, 33 and 34. The time for filing and preparation requirements for the joint appendix are governed by Rule 26. Preparation of the joint appendix may be deferred until after the briefs have been filed upon approval of the Clerk. Deferral of the joint appendix is not favored. Parties wishing to dispense with the requirement of the joint appendix must seek leave of the Court. Rule 26.8.
- Time. Rules 25 and 30: Absent an order of the Court setting forth a briefing schedule, the time to file briefs on the merits is set out in the Rules, and due dates do not appear on the Court’s docket. Any reply brief must actually be received by the Clerk not later than 2 p.m. one week before the date of oral argument.
- Filing and submission. Rules 25 and 29. A .pdf version of every brief on the merits, including amicus curiae briefs, must be submitted to the Clerk and to counsel of record for the parties via e-mail.