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Transcript of Oral Arguments
Notice what he does do:
- Takes a moment to compose himself at start, and before answering questions, in order to better structure answers and argument.
- Opens with "May it please the court"
- Opens with broad ideas about First Amendment - frames the conflict persuasively for this client.
- Eye contact with the court during the opening and closing
- Directly answers the question asked, then provides explanation of why the answer is what it is
- He has obviously prepared for the argument, and has anticipated the kinds of questions the court would ask. He's also thought about how those questions should be answered from his client's perspective
Notice what he doesn't do:
- Speak over the bench
- Read from his notes
- He didn't say thank you! But you should. You must thank the court before sitting down.
Good Student Example
Student Oral Argument Transcript
Student: Chief Justice, and may it please the court. [pauses to get court’s approval to continue; court indicates approval] My name is Victoria Corder, and I represent the petitioner, the United States, in today’s argument. Your Honor, I would like to request two minutes for rebuttal before I begin. [pauses for court’s approval]
- Here, the student has taken care of the formalities. She’s said “may it please the court.” She’s introduced herself and her client, and she’s requested rebuttal time.
Student: Your Honors, the issue in today’s case is whether the search of the respondent’s car was a legal search incident to arrest exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement in light of the fact that, at the time of the search, the respondent had his hands handcuffed and was seated in the back seat of a police car.
- This is her one-sentence summary of the case. Her summary is grounded in the rule of law that applies to this case.
Student: Now, the Belton rule applies to the search of the respondent’s care and makes it a legal search incident to arrest for three reasons. First, the search of respondent’s car was limited in scope and it was made contemporaneous to his lawful, custodial arrest. Second, the Belton rule makes a search of an automobile following the lawful, custodial arrest of its occupant categorically reasonable. Thirdly, policy reasons support applying a bright-line rule over a case-by-case approach in order to define the scope of the search for police officers in the field, and in order for them to protect their safety. [Then the judges start questioning her]
- Here, she’s giving her roadmap. She’s going to explain to the judge’s why her client is correct for those three reasons.
- Notice how her roadmap is supported by case law. She’s relying primarily on the Belton case. I can guarantee that she knows the facts, holding and reasoning, and the legal implications, of the Belton case like the back of her hand. You should become likewise familiar with the cases you will rely on.
- Start with your strongest argument, keep your weakest argument for last.
- Notice how she keeps repeating, “lawful, custodial arrest”? That’s because if she can prove that this driver was under lawful, custodial arrest, then the police officer didn’t err in searching his car and the incriminating evidence that was found in his car can be used against him at trial. She keeps framing his arrest as one that is “lawful” and “custodial.” Her theory is probably that this arrest was custodial and lawful, and so the search was also lawful.
Bad Attorney Example
Don't make his mistakes!
Your Oral Arguments
Your oral arguments are November 13 and 20.
Your argument will be based on the writing problem from this semester. The court will hear argument on Count I of the appellant's complaint.
What you should do now
1. Practice your oral arguments!
2. View/listen to the other oral argument examples on TWEN, which are in the Course Materials folder.
3. Attend a moot court practice round to see students argue and hear the feedback they get. Apply what you learn there to your own preparation.
4. Brainstorm questions and answers!
5. Practice your oral arguments!