Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How is the Supreme Court Like Basketball?

The NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament pairings were announced this week. There will be excitement on the court as the games get under way. You might not know, but there is a way the Ohio Supreme Court is like a basketball court. We have our own version of a shot clock.

Every case argued before the seven justices has a time limit. Normally, each side has 15 minutes for oral argument, while in death penalty cases, the time limit is 30 minutes per side.

Watch the oral arguments on our website, www.sc.ohio.gov. You may notice that the appellant’s attorney asks to reserve a few minutes of argument time for rebuttal. That way, after the appellee’s attorney makes a critical point, he or she can respond adequately.  Sometimes, of course, questions by the justices eat up the time and the arguments are then over. Only the Chief Justice can extend the time.
Attorneys are told to keep track of time by watching a digital clock at their lectern. Although no buzzer sounds as it does when 35-seconds elapses on the basketball court, the attorneys who argue do receive a times-up notice:  the red light flashes on the lectern. They need to wrap up their thoughts quickly when that red light appears, and as the words over the courtroom doorway state in Latin—“While I speak, time flies.”
And so the legal contest of an appellate argument has at least one thing in common with sports—strict timing. Enjoy the March Madness on the basketball court, and may your team win!

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