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Don’t Get Caught Breaking Federal Circuit’s Argument Rules (1)

Jan. 22, 2020, 4:02 PMUpdated: Jan. 22, 2020, 8:40 PM

Respect the judges and don’t waste their time: That’s the message from the Federal Circuit to attorneys who argue before the court.

The court recently issued guidance to attorneys that they shouldn’t interrupt judges during arguments, and should assume they’re familiar with the facts of the case.

Litigators also should “answer questions directly” and “avoid pejoratives,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said.

The court warned attorneys seated at counsel tables not to “make inappropriate facial gestures nor engage in exaggerated gesticulation.”

The specific guidelines for counsel during oral argument are new, though some appeared in other parts of an earlier version of the document.

The court also spelled out rules for members of the public attending arguments. They must respect the dignity of the court by turning off all electronics and keeping silent, according to the updated courtroom decorum policy.

Anyone sitting in the gallery must wear “restrained and appropriate” attire and leave coats and large bags on the racks outside the courtroom. They may read “only material relating to the court’s business” while court is in session.

The rules clarify that oral argument is rarely allowed in pro se cases and explicitly state that using visual aids at argument is discouraged.

The court also stressed punctuality, saying that a panel of judges may decide to hear cases in a different order than they are listed for that day’s argument, so attorneys involved in all scheduled cases should be present when the court session starts.

(Updated with additional reporting throughout.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Perry Cooper in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebecca Baker at; Keith Perine at