Tables turned as justices are quizzed by lawyers

first_img Tables turned as justices are quizzed by lawyers Mark D. Killian Managing Editor From the usefulness of amicus briefs to protocol for who gets to answer questions during oral argument, members of the Bar had a unique opportunity to fire questions at the Supreme Court during the Appellate Practice Section’s discussion with the court program at the Bar’s Annual Meeting.“Openness is one of the high values of the court and I think it is especially helpful when we do this every year. . . because it gives you an opportunity to come and instead of being peppered with questions from the bench, you get to ask a couple of questions yourself,” Chief Justice Harry Lee Anstead told those gathered at the Bar’s June convention in Boca Raton.What follows are some of the questions posed to the justices: • When there are two or more lawyers on the same side during oral argument, is it permissible for a lawyer not already at the podium to rise to answer a question asked his colleague?Anstead said it makes “eminent good sense” that if the lawyer seated is better equipped to respond to that question to do so.“We are generally only concerned with the consumption of the time and getting our questions addressed, because that represents the concerns that the justices have going into the oral argument,” Anstead said. “I see no reason why someone can’t be called up to the podium to respond to a question like that.”Justice Charlie Wells, however, noted the 20 minutes allotted for argument goes fast and that if you waste your time “with people bouncing up and down” you risk breaking the continuity of the argument.“What you are really looking for is the questions the court asks as opposed to a presentation by lawyers,” Wells said. “You want the court to get out on the table the things that are troubling the court. So if you are not in a position where you can answer that, then the person who can had better pop up real quick.”Justice Pariente, who became chief justice a week after the Annual Meeting, also said the justices are less interested in hearing presentations from lawyers before them as getting their questions answered.“If you can get your name out without a question, you are in good shape,” Pariente said. • A bill which failed in the legislature last session would have created a sixth district court of appeal in Southwest Florida. Is the court considering this issue?Anstead said the court has a history of studying the issue, but no recommendation for the new DCA has made it past the subcommittee stage in recent years.“I think that is still an issue that bears examination and study,” Pariente said, noting the proposals made this year in the legislature came without any prior discussion with the court.“We have been told that this year, the new legislature may not be interested in that issue,” Pariente said.Pariente has, however, decided to study the workloads of the DCAs again and the potential need for a new DCA to be created “in a global way so it does not become a partisan football.”The bill this year tied the creation of a new DCA to the approval of any new judgeships. • What is the point of motions for rehearing when on the one hand lawyers are not supposed to reargue something they already argued in their brief and on the other are not supposed to make new arguments?“When I was an attorney, I always thought motions for rehearing at the Florida Supreme Court were a waste of time, because it is hard enough to convince three DCA judges to change their minds and it’s especially difficult to get seven Supreme Court justices to change their minds,” Justice Raoul Cantero said.Cantero did, however, say he had good experiences filing motions for clarifications where he essentially accepted the court’s holding “but said we also argued X and you did not address that.“I thought the court was much more open to that: not asking to redo the merits, but addressing this one issue,” he said.Pariente also noted motions for clarification often “look like motions for rehearing.” • Do amicus briefs help the court in deciding cases?Cantero said in the vast majority of cases amicus briefs add nothing to the case because they simply restate the arguments made by the parties involved.“The amicus briefs I thought were helpful were those that come from a different perspective,” Cantero said. “If the parties are arguing a constitutional issue, they argue a statutory interpretation issue.”Cantero said an amicus is also useful if it educates the court about what is happening on the same issue in other states.Pariente also said it is helpful when truly neutral organizations weigh in on the issue, especially in rules cases.“What we see are a lot of not friends of the court, but friends of the appellate or appellee,” she said. Tables turned as justices are quizzed by lawyers August 1, 2004 Managing Editor Regular Newslast_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *