Golden Gate University Law Review


The present Article is a detailed presentation of the views of judges and lawyers in one federal appellate court about various aspects of oral argument. It is part of a larger study of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, based on interviews conducted with fifteen of the court's then eighteen active-duty and senior circuit judges and a dozen district judges, all with extensive experience on the appellate court. To provide at least a limited basis for comparison with the judges' responses, information was sought from attorneys who had argued before the court and would thus have some experience on which to base their answers. Interviews were conducted with thirteen San Francisco lawyers who had argued more than one case before the Ninth Circuit in the year prior to the interviews. Responses from several Los Angeles lawyers were obtained from a mail questionnaire, resulting in information from nineteen lawyers. After a look at respondents' backgrounds and the lawyers' specific views of oral argument in the Ninth Circuit, we turn to respondents' views as to whether argument is more important for the judges or for the lawyers or equally important for both. Next is an intensive analysis of the ways in which oral argument helps the judges and the attorneys, with attention to each of the functions oral argument is said to perform. This will be followed by respondents' views as to whether argument is significant or determinative in the cases presented to the court, the types of cases in which oral argument is most helpful and least helpful, and the ways in which oral argument does not help. The Article concludes with a brief examination of judges' preparation for oral argument.

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