Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday evening quarterbacking (and, no, this post is not about the Chiefs)

Here in Kansas, the state supreme court broadcasts its oral arguments over the internet.  I think that's great.  When I have argument, friends and family from far away can spend 15 minutes learning a little about what I do.  When I don't have argument (and it's been a while for me), I can still feel connected to the court, its hot issues, and its trends by listening.  I have definitely used ideas I picked up from oral arguments in my own issues.  Plus, I'm just a bit of a court junkie, so I like listening.

From the safety of my office, in my jeans and holding my latte in my hands, I can just listen without the pressure of actually standing at the podium.  I try to be mindful of that and not express criticism of my fellow appellate advocates' performances.  And usually I don't have much to criticize, anyway.  (Well, unless the advocate is a prosecutor.)  The people in my office are god's gift to appellate practice.  And many of the civil attorneys have been there before.  But there is one thing that I will scream at any attorney presenting oral argument without feeling the slightest twinge of guilt that I'm speaking from my comfy ivory tower where I've had lots of time to think about it.  It's usually aimed at the trial attorneys who are used to a more casual argument with trial courts.

It is this: DON'T INTERRUPT THE JUDGES!  Let them finish their questions.  No matter how much you might disagree with an underlying presumption or want to correct a misunderstanding of a fact.  I don't care if you've anticipated this exact question and have already formulated the perfect, home-run, knock their socks off, dead-bang winner of an answer.  Don't interrupt the judges!  Really.

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