Instructions for Counsel Scheduled to Present Oral Argument to the Indiana Supreme Court
This website provides instruction concerning the Indiana Supreme Court’s standard oral argument procedures.
Most arguments are conducted in the Courtroom of the Indiana Supreme Court, located in Room 317 of the State House. The State House is the large domed building occupying the space between Washington, Ohio, Capitol and Senate Streets in downtown Indianapolis. There are parking garages near the State House and on-street metered parking is sometimes available.
The following instructions are designed to apply to arguments conducted in the Courtroom of the Indiana Supreme Court. Occasionally, however, the Court will schedule an argument elsewhere. The order you received will identify the location of the argument. If it is scheduled to take place somewhere other than the Courtroom, please contact the Division of Supreme Court Administration at 317-232-2540 for specific instructions.
Plan to arrive at least twenty minutes before the scheduled start of the argument. Upon first arriving, please fill out the forms you will find at the Sheriff’s desk outside the Courtroom. The blue form is for the appellant and the yellow for the appellee. Be sure to print your name clearly and legibly and give the form to the Sheriff or to someone from the Division of Supreme Court Administration who will be in the courtroom to provide procedural assistance.
By custom, the appellant sits at the counsel table on the left of the bench as you face the Court (near the door), and the appellee on the right (near the windows). Counsel of record and attorneys licensed in Indiana may sit at the counsel's table. Non-attorney clients may sit in the front row of the gallery behind counsel's table.
The total argument length is usually forty minutes, although sometimes there are variations. Please refer to the order you received to be sure about the amount of time allocated. The Court's usual practice is to have the appellant go first in direct appeals or if transfer has been granted. If transfer has not been granted, usually the petitioner will go first. However, from time to time the Court may alter the typical sequence. The order you received from the Court will be controlling. The party authorized to go first may reserve any portion of the allotted time for rebuttal, but must tell the Court, and not just court staff, before beginning the argument how much time is being reserved.
The Courtroom is equipped with an electronic timing system, and you will notice a small box sitting on the podium. When you begin speaking, a green light will glow. When two minutes remain of the time for your argument, a yellow light will glow. When your time has expired, a flashing red light will glow. You will also see a digital display counting down the time remaining. Important note: The clock continues counting after time has expired; if the light is blinking red, then the number you see is the amount of time you are over the limit.
For the first argument, the timing system will be set according to the time reserved for rebuttal. For example, assume you have been allotted 20 minutes as the party to go first. If you tell the Court you intend to use 15 minutes in the main argument and reserve 5 minutes for rebuttal, the yellow light will glow after 13 minutes and the flashing red light after 15 minutes. If you use less than the time you have set aside for your main argument, that time will be added to the time for rebuttal. If you use more, that time will be subtracted from the time for rebuttal. For example, if you requested 5 minutes for rebuttal but nevertheless used 17 minutes for the main argument because you were held over by questions from the Court, only 3 minutes remain for rebuttal. If you have been allotted more or less than 20 minutes, the same general principles will apply but in a different time frame.
For the responding party (often, but not always, the appellee) the yellow light will glow when 2 minutes of the allotted time remains, and the red light will come on when time has expired.
The Court can see when the yellow and red lights come on. If you are responding to a question when the red light is on, answer the pending question, advise the Court your time is up, and sit down. Do not summarize or add concluding comments after your time has expired.
The Court’s practice is to allow an entity that has been granted amicus curiae status in this proceeding to participate in oral argument without need of an additional motion. The party with whom the amicus is substantively aligned may share oral argument time with the amicus, but only if that party so chooses. Neither party should feel obligated to share time with an amicus.
Counsel should advise the Court concerning any agreements to share time both on the appearance form filled out at counsel table and at the start of counsel’s oral presentation. No special motion need be filed concerning the sharing of argument time. Experience has demonstrated that it is sometimes difficult for attorneys effectively to share time or divide issues among themselves. The timing system will not be adjusted to reflect shared-time arrangements, and the Court will not keep track of time to insure such arrangements are realized. The Court may have its own agenda of questions that may not coincide with the way you have decided to divide your time. Please keep that consideration in mind.
The Courtroom is equipped with an amplification system, and there is a microphone on the podium. The clearest amplification of the speaker’s voice is achieved by speaking directly in front of the microphone, not to the side. Volume is controlled by the speaker’s voice and the distance from the speaker’s mouth to the microphone. Please be sensitive to the sound of your voice as amplified by the speakers. Speaking either too loudly or too softly makes it difficult for the Court to understand your arguments. If you require auxiliary aids or other accommodations to participate in the oral argument due to hearing impairment or other form of disability, please contact the Division of Supreme Court Administration (317-232-2540) at least seven (7) days prior to the scheduled argument.
If you use an exhibit as part of your argument, you may want to consider limiting such use to 8.5" x 11" documents copied from the record of proceedings. Using some form of document from outside the record of proceedings might be useful in the right type of case, but bear in mind that new evidence cannot be introduced at this stage of the proceedings without leave of court obtained well in advance of the argument. If you use a documentary exhibit, have enough copies for each Justice and opposing counsel. The Sheriff or someone from the Division of Supreme Court Administration will place these on the bench before the argument begins. Using exhibits placed on an easel would be unusual and can be problematic in the Courtroom. The Justices are seated about eighteen feet from the speaker’s podium, making most visual aids hard to see. Further, to point to the visual aid, you almost certainly will have to separate yourself from the podium microphone, making it hard for you to be heard. Also, the exhibits will not be picked up by our webcast cameras (see below). Please keep these considerations in mind.
Often, an argument will immediately precede yours or another will immediately follow. There will be a brief recess between arguments, with enough time for you to complete the appearance form and arrange your papers. You are welcome to arrive early or to remain after your argument to hear others, but you may not enter or exit the Courtroom while an argument is ongoing. A television monitor in the atrium outside the Courtroom broadcasts arguments as they occur, and is a convenient way to view them while you are waiting for your argument to start.
As you probably know, the Court allows news cameras into its Courtroom during oral argument. We do not know the extent to which there may be media interest in your case. However, the Court has strict rules in place to make the presence of cameras as unobtrusive to counsel as possible.
You may also be aware that the Supreme Court now records and broadcasts its oral arguments live over the Internet. The recordings are also archived on the Court’s website for later viewing. You will be able to watch and listen to your oral argument soon after it has concluded. Access to the live broadcast and to the archived list of recorded oral arguments is available at mycourts.in.gov/arguments/. Occasionally, one of the Court’s oral arguments will be selected for special treatment as a teaching tool in Indiana schools. When that occurs, the briefs are also made available over the Internet. You can find more information at the Courts in the Classroom website at courts.IN.gov/citc.
Additional information about oral arguments can be found in Appellate Rules 52 and 53. If you have not already taken care of it, please remember your obligation of acknowledgment under Appellate Rule 52(C). If you have additional questions about the facilities or procedures, please contact the Division of Supreme Court Administration at 317-232-2540.