A Day in the Supreme Court >Page 1, 2
A Day in Court - Let the Arguments Begin
For each case, the Justices are provided a packet of information including a record of the case through the lower courts and printed briefs stating the arguments to be presented by both sides. Arguments are presented in open, public court. Anyone may sit in the audience and listen to the proceedings.
As each case is called before the court, lawyers for each side are allowed only 30 minutes to present their argument. As many as 24 cases may be presented in each two-week sitting with an average of from one to three cases heard per day.
Since the majority of cases involve the review of a lower court's decision, there is no jury present and no witnesses are called. While there in no testimony from witnesses, the Justices almost always pose questions to both the lawyers and to other Justices. The Justices' questions often raise hypothetical constitutional situations related to the case being argued. Justices often ask questions designed to point out future implications of their decision.
Lawyers consider arguing a case before the Supreme Court to be the highlight of their careers and are presented a souvenir white quill pen by the Court to commemorate their appearance.
After a one-hour lunch recess at noon, the Justices continue to hear arguments until 3 pm.
For cases argued on Monday, the Justices vote on it on Wednesday. Votes on cases argued Tuesday and Wednesday are cast on Friday. The senior Justice voting with the majority assigns the job of writing the majority opinion and the senior Justice voting with the minority chooses who will write the minority opinion. While all Justices can add his or her own statements, the majority opinion stands as the final decision of the court.
The Court continues on this schedule for the entire Term until all cases ready for argument have been heard and decided. During May and June, the Court meets only to announce orders and opinions. The Court typically recesses during the last week of June, with that week being filled with a flurry of decisions. While about 150 cases of major importance are decided by the Court each year, only about three-quarters of them are announced in fully published opinions.
During the summer, the Justices continue to consider new petitions for review and prepare for cases to be presented during the coming fall.
Contacting the Supreme Court
Supreme Court of the United States
1 First Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20543
Clerk of the Court 202-479-3011
Telephone Operator 202-479-3000
Electronic Bulletin Board System (BBS) 202-554-2570
Web Site http://www.supremecourtus.gov/
The Justices do not have e-mail addresses.
OYEZ is pronounced "o-yay" or "o-yez" or "o-yes." It is used three times in succession to introduce the opening of a court of law. The origin of the word Oyez is Middle English, from Anglo-Norman, hear ye, imperative plural of oyer, to hear. from Latin audire. -- Source: The Oyez Project - Northwestern University
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