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October 22, 2006

Why shouldn't all law schools regularly host real oral arguments?

As I was gearing up this new blog adventure, Dave Hoffman at Concurring Opinion reacted to hearing appellate arguments at Temple School of Law by suggesting here that states "stop building new appellate courtrooms, and have law schools (in effect) subsidize some of the costs of the court system in return for educational benefits."  Howard Bashman of How Appealing, who happened to be one of the appellate lawyers involved in the arguments at Temple, followed up here by suggesting  that one lesson law students in attendance should have drawn "is the extent to which appellate courts are forced to ration justice due to the crushing burden of an overwhelming caseload."

These two intriguing posts got me thinking that all law schools should regularly host real oral arguments — and, ideally, lots of different kinds of oral arguments involving different kinds of courts hearing different kinds of cases.  A very enriching and useful aspect of my clerking experience was observing oral arguments and discovering the wide diversity of judicial and litigant styles.  Now, as a law professor, I continue to learn a lot from reading SCOTUS oral argument transcripts and from watching/listening to on-line oral arguments in my field.

So, furthering Dave's idea, I would encourage law schools to actively recruit (local and distant) courts to conduct oral arguments within its walls.  Law professors could actively develop innovative educational programming around these arguments — by having students read briefs before the argument and perhaps even script questions for the judges; by having students draft opinions based on what they saw and perhaps even write reviews of the lawyers' and judges' performances.

Does anyone know if any law schools host real oral arguments on a consistent basis?  Does anyone see any real downsides to doing so?

October 22, 2006 in Service -- legal profession | Permalink


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I certainly think it's a great idea. During my first semester at Cardozo, the Second Circuit convened a panel at the law school, and my "Elements of Law" professor gave us the briefs to read ahead of time. It gave me a "realistic" view of oral arguments that I might otherwise not have had once I started doing legal writing and moot court.

Posted by: Matthew | Oct 23, 2006 11:24:47 AM

I'm not sure what you define as "consistent," but the WVU College of Law hosts the WV Supreme Court of Appeals once a year. I think the Fourth Circuit has been there once in a while, too. As someone who routinely travels to Richmond to cross swords with the Fourth, I wouldn't mind a change of scenery every now and then.

Posted by: JDB | Oct 23, 2006 1:34:02 PM

Rutgers School of Law-Newark hosts the NJ Appellate Division 6 times a year.

Posted by: Ryan Cooper | Oct 23, 2006 3:38:38 PM

Villanova has been hosting Commonwealth Court arguments for at least the past two years. It requires some serious course and room rescheduling in our space-short building, but the students react very positively.

Jim Maule

Posted by: Jim Maule | Oct 23, 2006 4:37:26 PM

The new Charleston School of Law recently hosted oral arguments for the South Carolina Court of Appeals, our intermediate appellate court. I believe this is something that they want to do on a regular basis. I have never seen that many people attend an oral argument in either of our appellate courts. I know the students enjoyed the learning experience. The only downside is that, as a lawyer, I prefer the formality of the actual courtroom.

Posted by: Stanley Feldman | Oct 23, 2006 6:17:01 PM

I believe that William Mitchell in St. Paul, Minn., hosts a state supreme court argument each year.

Posted by: someguy | Oct 24, 2006 1:41:01 PM

We are beginning a conference on Innovation in Legal Education. We hope it to be a regular at our school. Any thoughts are appreciated.

Syd Beckman
Charleston School of Law

Posted by: Syd Beckman | Oct 24, 2006 6:39:00 PM

The Ninth Circuit fairly regularly sits at various law schools within the circuit. They come to Stanford pretty much every spring, and the students who go always find it really useful. It's especially good for One L's, because the panel usually comes a couple of weeks before their first year arguments.

After the arguments, the panel stays to talk to the students, answering questions as long as they're not too closely related to the cases.

Posted by: Pam Karlan | Oct 29, 2006 6:01:38 PM

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