Chief Justice Roberts cautioned the lawyers not to rely on the clocks. The Chief added: “You should not look at the clock anyway, but particularly not today,” Mauro then relates an incident involving Chief Justice Rehnquist and the clock over the bench:
In warning that advocates should not look at the clock, whether functioning or not, Roberts was channeling his former boss, mentor and predecessor William Rehnquist.
It was 1989 when Barry Goldstein, then a lawyer for NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, made the mistake of looking up at the clock while arguing in Lorance v. AT&T Technologies, an employment discrimination case.
Rehnquist had started to ask a question, and Goldstein, probably trying to pace himself, glanced upward to see how much time he had left.
“Don’t look at the clock,” Rehnquist snapped. Goldstein apologized, but Rehnquist was clearly still annoyed that he had paused before answering. “You’re here to answer questions as well as to talk,” the justice said.
Does it strike anyone as just plain screwy that a clock hangs above the bench but lawyers aren’t supposed to look at it upon pain of an ass-chewing during oral argument?
*H/t How Appealing.