Former Oklahoma AG Shares Insight Into U.S. Supreme Court

Wednesday, March 28th 2012, 6:56 pm
By: News On 6

The Supreme Court gets close to 10,000 petitions to hear cases a year but only agrees to hear around 80. It's a rare chance for an attorney to address the highest court in the land.

Former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson was part of two different cases that went before the Supreme Court.

He calls it an "awesome" experience, but says with all the tradition and pageantry it can be intimidating. He was the lead attorney for one case at the Supreme Court and assisted on another.

He says from the moment you walk in those marbled hallways the seriousness of the situation is very present.

"It is a very solemn occasion. If there's any frivolity at all it comes from the justices...they can crack jokes, we can't," Edmondson said.

The Supreme Court is made up of a chief justice and eight associate justices. They all wear black robes and tradition has them shaking hands with each other before being seated to show they can disagree on an opinion but they are still united for a common purpose.

Attorneys who are present but not arguing before the court sit in a special section, they must sit still and they're not allowed to drape their arms over another chair.

Edmondson says presenting attorneys have a prepared statement but are usually only able to read one or two sentences before the questions begin.

He says it's important for the attorney to address the justice by name and to keep in mind the justice may already know the answer.

"So their question and the point that they're trying to make by their question is aimed at another justice not necessarily you," Edmondson said.

Edmondson also warns about analyzing which justice asks what question. He says it can be nearly impossible to predict how the court will rule.

"Cases that sounded like they were going to go in a particular direction of the times don't, and it can be misleading if you think from the question that you know what the results going to be because the justices will surprise you," he said.

Two other Supreme Court traditions that are interesting, attorneys who argue before the Supreme Court are given a white goose-quill pen to take home as a souvenir.

And just below the bench that the justices sit at, are ceramic spittoons as a remnant of the court's early history, only now they're used as waste baskets.