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Supreme Court Rules, Practices, and Traditions

Processes

Has the oral argument rule always provided for thirty minutes to each side?

No, the oral argument has not always been thirty minutes. In fact, oral arguments used to take several days in some cases. Many of the justices chafed under the process of hearing lawyers give speeches hour upon hour. In 1849, the Court adopted Rule 53, which set the time limit for each attorney at two hours each. If attorneys wished to argue longer than two hours, they had to petition for special permission. In 1925, the Court limited the argument time to one hour on each side. The Court said this change was “due to the crowded calendar of the Court.” In 1970, the Court changed its rules again, limiting each side to the present-day requirement of thirty minutes each.



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