About Oral Argument
In most appeals to the Supreme Court, decisions are made based on written briefs from the attorneys. In some cases, oral argument is granted. This means lawyers from both sides have an opportunity to appear before the justices in person to further clarify written briefs and answer the justices’ questions. Each
attorney has 20 minutes to make their case. The attorney making the appeal usually speaks for 15 minutes and later returns for a 5-minute rebuttal.
An oral argument is not a trial. There are no witnesses and no evidence will be presented. The trial has already happened and a decision has been made. A party who loses at trial can appeal the decision and argue to the appellate court that certain unfavorable rulings and determinations at trial compromised the fairness of the outcome.
The Court routinely grants oral argument when the legal issues of a case are complex, such as statutory interpretation cases or cases that involve interpretation of the Arkansas Constitution. And, oral arguments are often set for high-profile or controversial cases to promote transparency and encourage attendance by members of the public. It is an opportunity to observe and learn about an integral part of the Court’s decision-making process.
A Fast-Paced Proceeding
During oral argument, lawyers argue their case by answering questions from the bench, as justices who have carefully studied the case ponder aloud complex legal arguments. The justices examine previous court cases to clarify what the law states. They keep in mind how their decision could affect future cases.
It is normal for a justice to interrupt an attorney mid-sentence to ask a question. This format can be surprising if you have not seen an oral argument. It is not meant to be disrespectful but rather allows the justices to make the most of their time with the attorney.
When Will A Decision Be Made?
A decision is not made on the day of oral argument. Instead, the justices deliberate and majority and minority opinions are written within a few weeks. With seven members on the Arkansas Supreme Court, a concurrence of at least four justices is required for decisions in all cases.
The court will post the opinion on its website: arcourts.gov.