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Are Oral Arguments Worth Arguing About?

Adam Liptak has this story with the above title in the NYT.  Oral arguments are the visible part of the Supreme Court's decision process, so they get the most attention.  But are they the most important?  No, not by a long shot.

"Oral arguments are in any event far less important than the written briefs."

The story is prompted by the oral argument in the health care case, in which the advocate for the "liberal" side got beaten up while the advocate for the "conservative" side had a smooth trip.  The basic principle, though, has long been known.

Years ago, Tony Mauro began his end-of-term summary with a statement to the effect that the term had shown us some stunningly bad oral arguments and how stunningly little that matters.  The lawyer called on carpet by C.J. Rehnquist won his case, as did another who had had a very rough time.

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