Arguing before the nation’s highest court is enough to make even the most seasoned attorney nervous enough to forget his or her own name, let alone the names of the justices.
So imagine the pressure Deputy Solicitor General Gregory G. Garre felt as he took the podium before the U.S. Supreme Court today to argue on behalf of the government as amicus curiae in the case Sprint/United Management Co. v. Mendelsohn: His two bosses, Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, were in the courtroom looking on as well.
Despite having been a law clerk for the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist, Garre must have had a case of the jitters, because he referred to Justice Samuel Alito by the wrong name.
“How do you articulate the rule that separates these situations?” Alito asked Garre, who was trying to differentiate situations where “me too” evidence should and should not be admitted in employment discrimination triels.
“Well, I would point to several criteria, Justice Scalia, in determining relevance,” Garre replied, spurring chuckles among those in the press gallery who caught the gaffe. Justice Antonin Scalia, of course, sits three seats away from Alito on the bench.
Neither Alito nor Scalia corrected Garre, but the boo-boo does appear in the official transcript of the oral arguments [PDF file, page 24].