Thursday, November 4, 2010

oral arguments

The US Supreme Court has transcripts and audio files of oral arguments. According to their site:
A case selected for argument usually involves interpretations of the U. S. Constitution or federal law. At least four Justices have selected the case as being of such importance that the Supreme Court must resolve the legal issues.
Worth a look, and maybe a listen.
If you've ever been uncomfortable contributing to tutorial discussions, imagine dealing with this (from the recent Schwarzenegger case transcript dealing with violent video games):
JUSTICE SCALIA: An average minor is halfway between 0 and 18; is that 9 years old?
You don't have to understand the issues to find this interesting. Simply seeing how language changes when the arguing attorneys have to think on their feet is illuminating. And (from my cursory look) the justices aren't always eloquent. I'm guessing that that's partly because they don't need to show off; and partly because getting to the point often involves a bit of murkiness. Bathos alert... the murk factor is true in libraries too. Sometimes the question you most need to ask (and answer) is the one you can't express clearly. That may put you out of your comfort zone, but don't let it put you off. Research is a process, not a checklist; and teasing things out is part of your job and also part of ours. So don't hesitate to bring unclear questions to the desk. The good news is that we're not judges, we're just here to help.

You can find the oral judgment transcripts and audio files and more on the Supreme Court site.
You can find us at the Law Library desk, 8th floor, Richardson Building.