New Season for the Supreme Court
In an observant article in the Times, Adam Liptak writes on how oral arguments before the Supreme Court have grown to be much more contentious in recent years. Liptak cited an interview conducted by Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson of the Fourth Circuit with Chief Justice John Roberts, in which the Chief acknowledged that recent benches have been “hotter” than before. The Chief attributed this partly to the fact that oral arguments are the first time that Justices “get a clue” about what the other Justices think. Chief Justice Roberts also said that Justices recently appointed to the Court tend to speak more than the Justices that they replaced (thus increasing dialogue). Justices Ginsburg and Kagan conceded that oral arguments were partially a device to get the Justices to sway one another through, as Justice Kagan said, “some helpless person standing at the podium who you’re talking through.” When the bench is particularly hot, and multiple Justices talk at once, the Chief Justice will reluctantly act as an “umpire” and step in to restore order. He dislikes it when there is excessive crosstalk amongst the Justices because it cheats the lawyer out of time to make her case.