M.C. Sungaila in Law360: A New Justice Dominates Oral Arguments in Wake of Scalia's Death


The late Justice Antonin Scalia was known for transforming oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court with his voluble, biting and often witty questioning style, but the dynamic has shifted after his death, with a new associate justice taking on the role of most frequent speaker, according to a Law360 analysis...

Justice Sonia Sotomayor now leads the pack as the justice who fired off the most questions or remarks during oral arguments that took place after Justice Scalia’s death, according to a Law360 analysis...

The two most chatty justices behind Justice Sotomayor have vastly different styles of questioning, with Justice Breyer often turning to lengthy hypotheticals or taking a conversational approach with his inquiries. Justice Roberts, on the other hand, has a more efficient questioning style, and he tends to get in and out with particular concerns he has without necessarily tipping his hand, according to Mary-Christine Sungaila, a Haynes and Boone LLP partner and chair of the amicus curiae committee of the International Association of Defense Counsel.

With Justice Breyer, you get the feeling he’s working out a multipart test and balancing things on the bench when he’s asking his paragraph-long questions, Sungaila said.

“There’s value to that, to the extent you can understand the various elements he’s balancing, what’s important to him and what he’s thinking about, so it gives you an avenue to respond to those concerns,” she said. “So even though his questions may take up some time on the clock, which can be frustrating as an advocate, it’s helpful because it leaves a window into where he’s going.”

Excerpted from Law360. To read the full article, please click here (subscription required).

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