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Justice Alito Gives Behind-the-Scenes Look at Supreme Court

Justice Samuel Alito Gives University of Kentucky College of Law Behind-the-Scenes Look at Supreme Court

By: Whitney Harder

September 28, 2015 The University of Kentucky College of Law has a history of bringing the legal profession's most distinguished figures to campus for students to meet with, and this year is no exception.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito visited the college on September 24 & 25, 2015 as the Roy R. and Virginia F. Ray Distinguished Lecturer. Speaking Thursday evening to a packed auditorium in the Gatton College of Business and Economics, Alito exposed students, as well as alumni, faculty, staff and others, to a behind-the-scenes look at the court. More than 500 individuals registered for the lecture.

Justice Alito provided answers to the most common questions he has received throughout his tenure on the court. His first question: Why shouldn't oral arguments be televised? "You really do not want to see the court at work," he joked. He continued on to say that if this happened, the arguments would degenerate into a forum for soundbites.

Alito also spoke on whether oral arguments make a difference, a question often asked by law students. Sometimes, he said, but it is less important than the briefs. And what about law clerks; are they really running the show? Alito said the justices do their own work.

The court does not hear arguments in the summer because it is "really beneficial" for the justices to have an end point in the term, guaranteeing that cases are decided by a certain deadline. And contrary to the impression some may get from reading their opinions, the justices "are really not at each other's throats." In fact, Alito said they have lunch together on argument and conference days and "we have a rule that we may not discuss any cases during lunch."     

During his visit, Justice Alito also served as a guest lecturer in administrative law, federal courts and criminal procedure classes, and met with UK College of Law faculty and staff.

 "Having U.S. Supreme Court justices here allows them (students) to see that these folks are human, flesh and blood, and they talk about issues in the same way that you learn about them in the classroom," College of Law Dean David A. Brennen said at the lecture.