Oral argument can be a hideous combination of trial by ordeal and a rigged quiz show. Starting with the presiding judge’s speech that you don’t really need five whole minutes to argue your insignificant murder case. Welcome to the Appellate Division!
And those zinging queries from the bench! Appellate court judges are like law students who haven’t done the reading and think they can hide it by asking aggressive questions. You’re just as fooled by this tactic as your Torts professor was when, not having gotten around to reading Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad, you deflect the discussion by asking if Cardozo was gay.
But oral argument is completely revolutionized when a school group comes to court to observe. The snarling presiding judge suddenly transforms into a purring, lovable old character. With a coy chuckle, he tells the students that he trusts they won’t get too bad an impression of the law from what they see. Sweetly, mellifluously, he calls the cases. The rest of the panel similarly transforms. Nobody cuts you off mid-sentence or says horrible things about your client. At the end they thank you and promise to consider your fabulous arguments. You think you’re in a dream.
Here’s the obvious solution for the troubled finances of city schools! Rent out school groups to attend oral arguments! Since the presence of students has such a miraculously civilizing effect on the courts, the fancy law firms will pay big bucks for them. Indigent defenders will get a trickle-down benefit. With the extra income, schools will be able to afford a few extra frills, such as teachers. Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?