In the Supreme Court’s Guide for Counsel in Cases to be Argued, the Court provides a detailed and often entertaining list of tips for attorneys preparing cases for oral argument.  The phrase “do not” appears 15 times in the 19 page handbook.  Here are some of the more interesting “suggestions.”

  • Do not “correct” a Justice unless the matter is essential.
  • Do not use the “lingo” of a business or activity. The Court may not be familiar with such terms.
  • Do not use fancy words during oral argument. “Counsel used the word ‘orthogonal’ in a recent case. This caused a minor disruption that detracted from the argument. Counsel could just as easily have said ‘right angle.’ ”
  • Do not refer to an opinion of the Court by saying: “In Justice Ginsburg’s opinion.” Instead, say: “In the Court’s opinion, written by Justice Ginsburg.”
  • Do not (generally) attempt humor or familiarity.
  • Do not use emotional oration and loud, impassioned pleas.
  • Do not bring a computer, cell phone, or camera into the Courtroom.
  • Do not pass notes to arguing counsel during argument.
  • Do not introduce yourself or co-counsel during argument.
  • Do not use the title “Judge.” Instead, use “Justice” or “Your Honor.”
  • Do not continue to argue after the red light has come on (signaling the end of counsel’s allotted time).
  • Do not attempt to persuade the Court with facts and emotions. Instead, use points of law.
  • Do not recite the facts of the case before beginning argument.
  • Do not read your argument from a prepared script.
  • Do not attempt to enhance your argument time by a rapid fire, staccato delivery.
  • Do not interrupt a Justice who is addressing you.
  • Do not “stonewall” a Justice when he or she makes a point that is adverse to you.