The Supremes, unplugged

Has your case been granted cert by the Supreme Court? Well, congrats — but before you write a word of your brief or prep for oral argument, you’d better check one website that will help you out more than unshakable legal precedent on your side.

Tony Mauro at Legal Times found a website featuring video footage of eight of the nine Supreme Court justices very candidly speaking – often griping – about their appellate advocacy pet peeves. And they make for good watching, even if you aren’t preparing to argue before the high court.

The videos are the product of Bryan Garner, legal writing specialist who sat down and videotaped each justice [except for Justice David Souter, who declined to chat on tape] as they candidly gave their views – as well as an insight into their personalities.

We already knew Justice Antonin Scalia can get testy if lawyers don’t prepare their briefs properly. But in his video, he unleashes.

For example, speaking about lawyers who respond to hypotheticals by saying “That’s not my case,” Scalia snipes: “Boy, no. I mark it down. Absolutely, absolutely. I would rule against it if I could, just on [that point.] No, if I had to grade advocates in addition to deciding the case, what you would really get a ‘C’ for is saying that is not this case.”

And don’t make a verb by tacking an “-ize” on the end of a noun if you want to get Justice Anthony Kennedy – a crucial swing voter – on your side. Such a linguistic trick is “like wearing a very ugly cravat,” he said.

Scalia eschews the argument summaries in briefs, but don’t leave them out if you go before the Court. Justice Clarence Thomas loves them. They are “like giving you, you know, what’s going to be on TV next week.”

You can watch all of the videos – we sure will – on the website of LawProse, Inc. DC Dicta will round up a choice sample of quotes from the justices here later on.


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