Lawyers standing before the Supreme Court now will have at least two minutes to talk before justices rip their arguments apart.
Supreme Court oral arguments tend to be free-for-alls, with justices often quickly interrupting lawyers – and their fellow justices – with questions right off the bat. (Lengthy legal arguments are made in written briefs that the justices have already seen.) In a rule change beginning Monday, however, lawyers will get their say.
When they see the white light, however, their two minutes of uninterrupted fame are up.
“The Court generally will not question lead counsel for petitioners (or appellants) and respondents (or appellees) during the first two minutes of argument. The white light on the lectern will illuminate briefly at the end of this period to signal the start of questioning,” the new court guidelines say.
“Supreme Court arguments are notoriously unpredictable,” said Steve Vladeck, a CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law who has argued before the justices.
“This change may seem remarkably modest to outside observers, but it means that advocates will now be able to predict how long they’ll have for their openings – and tailor the substance and rhetoric to maximize having a captive audience,” he added. “The real question is what happens when the two minutes are up.”
The change came in the new guide for the 2019-20 term, filled with blockbuster cases on immigration, LBGT rights and the Second Amendment.