How long is a Supreme Court oral argument?
November 16, 2011
While there have been varying guidelines as to the length of time the Supreme Court justices will hear oral arguments for an individual case, it is generally recognized that this period of active debate between both sides has gotten shorter. Jerry Goldman, founder of the Oyez Project at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, a multimedia Supreme Court archive, said that long arguments were more common in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Under Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and now under Chief Justice John Roberts, virtually all oral arguments are limited to exactly 60 minutes. That leave only 30 minutes for each side to make its points. The pace can be quite hectic, especially when the justices start aggressively asking difficult questions of the attorneys. Several days ago, the Supreme Court agreed to hear debate on President Obama’s health care law. Issues were raised regarding its constitutionality, including whether or not citizens can be forced to buy health insurance. Interestingly, the justices have already called for 5 1/2 hours of oral debate, which will be the longest such debate in decades. The landmark case of Bush v. Gore, which decided the 2000 Presidential election, only received 90 minutes of debate. The modern record may belong to Brown v. Board of Education, which outlawed racial segregation in public schools. Oral debate in that case took 13 hours spread over several days.
What do you think? Is one hour enough time to make your case?