Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Fifth Circuit case

I've been out of town the past few days: I had my first-ever oral argument. It was before the en banc Fifth Circuit in the case described here. I represent Mr. Johnson pro bono, and got the Fifth Circuit to grant en banc review a year-and-a-half ago. The case was held in abeyance for most of that time while the Fifth Circuit decided a related case that Tom Goldstein argued (see here). The court ordered oral argument about a month ago, and it took place on Monday. Very exciting.

I found that the oral argument experience is very similar (on a meta-level) to that of performing a musical instrument before an audience. Most importantly, both are performances in every sense of the word: In both situations, you are displaying your skill and knowledge in a live high-wire act before an audience that you deeply want to impress. Both invoke alternating feelings of eager anticipation and abject fear beforehand; and during the performance, both invoke some initial trepidation that dissolves to (relative) comfort as you realize that you can handle the situation. The main difference, as one of my colleagues pointed out, is that in an oral argument before a court, there may be judges who are eager to undermine your position, whereas in a classical music concert the audience (usually) hopes that you succeed.


Blogger Stuart Buck said...

Hey Paul, congrats to you too! I did enjoy it, although I wish I had had more time.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cool! I'm arguing my first ever Appellate argument on Tuesday in front of the Washington Court of Appeals. I'm excited.

3:22 PM  

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