On the clock in the Supreme Court

According to a fascinatingĀ piece written by Tony Mauro*, the clocks in the Supreme Court weren’t working properly yesterday after the onset of standard time. “As the court chamber filled in anticipation of oral arguments, spectators noticed that the stately clocks hanging above the bench and at the back of the court were also showing the wrong timeā€”and differing wrong times at that. When the session began, the front clock was hours off, and the rear clock was showing 3:50.”
Photo credit: John Marino per Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. The image has not been altered.

Photo credit: John Marino per Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. The image has not been altered.

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?

RGK

*H/t How Appealing.

 

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