December 16, 2016

What’s good cause to put off an oral argument?

Last month, the Supreme Court started a new policy of sending counsel letters advising that oral argument could soon be set in their cases and directing them to tell the court immediately if there was good cause not to schedule argument for a particular day.  This month, the policy is the same, but the letter is a bit different.  (We know because we got one this week.)

Instead of requesting counsel to respond “immediately,” the court now asks for notice “within 7 calendar days of receiving this letter.”  It also explains notice of a potential conflict should be given even by “counsel who, before receiving this letter, have previously asked to avoid certain dates.”

The most significant revision to the letter is the detailed explanation of what does and does not constitute good cause:  “Examples of conflicts previously found to constitute good cause to avoid scheduling argument on any particular date include significant health-related issues; prepaid and nonrefundable travel arrangements booked in advance of the court’s notification regarding oral argument; and significant family events such as marriage.  Examples of conflicts previously found not to constitute good cause include scheduled trial and hearing dates in lower courts; conflicting professional seminars, meetings, or conventions; and planned significant family events that do not conflict with the actual dates on which argument might be held.”

The letter still warns, “Once the court files an order setting this case for oral argument, that date will not be changed absent exceptional cause, such as a medical emergency.”

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