All of us who are speaking probably share the same giddy feeling in front of a microphone with no red light. For years, my daughter told people that the greatest threat to Western civilization was her father at a podium without a red light. Before becoming Solicitor General, I spent my career as a trial lawyer, arguing only a few appeals. I found this red light tradition a little peculiar. More often than not, timers and lights in courts of appeals are viewed as advisory at best. I've had arguments where ten minutes were allocated per side, and yet argument extended until the afternoon. In another case that allocated ninety minutes per side and began at nine o'clock, we didn't actually finish until four o'clock in the afternoon. So coming into the SG's office, my view about the red light was, well, perhaps it shows your time has nominally expired, but undoubtedly the Justices will have other questions. And in any event, I might want to take a few extra minutes to address additional points. That was so wrong. The red light ended everything-absolutely everything-and not just for the advocates; it also ended the questioning of the Associate Justices. The Chief Justice was an equal opportunity cutter-offer. On many occasions, he cut off oral argument when a Justice was at the outset of a question he or she had been trying to get out in the open oral combat that was advocacy in the Supreme Court of Chief Justice Rehnquist.
74 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 1171-1190 (2006)
Scholarly Commons Citation
Waxman, Seth P.; Dellinger III, Walter E.; Mahoney, Maureen; Olson, Theodore; and Days III, Drew S., "Solicitors General Panel on the Legacy of the Rehnquist Court" (2006). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. Paper 348.