Supreme Court Tip: Finding Mr. Justice Elena Kagan

October 12, 2011

Nina Totenberg owns the Supreme Court beat.  Her recent 8 minute piece on Clarence Thomas’ influence on the Supreme Court is not to be missed. Ms. Totenberg’s straight delivery puts her listeners in the courtroom even when there’s no recorded audio available to flavor her reporting. In her coverage of the October 5th oral arguments in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, Totenberg noted:

Following Kruger to the lectern was Perich’s lawyer, Walter Dellinger. He literally got one word out of his mouth before the justices pounced. Justice Elena Kagan asked Dellinger “why this commissioned minister does not count as a minister…..” [emphasis mine]

What do you think that one word might have been? Here’s the transcript (2011 WL 4593953):

MR. DELLINGER: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court —

JUSTICE KAGAN: Mr. Dellinger — could you assume — could you assume for me that — is it —

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Mr. — Justice Kagan —

(Laughter.)

JUSTICE KAGAN: I feel like I missed something. Mr. Dellinger, could you assume for …?

Ok.  So, it was more than one word.  But, if you can’t get past “may it please the court,” you’ve been pounced upon.  And, the transcript reveals that Mr. Dellinger (certainly a seasoned attorney)  felt it.  For Court-followers, these transcripts offer great additional value to Ms. Totenberg’s coverage.  Transcripts of oral arguments can be found on Westlaw (SCT-ORALARG) and WestlawNext (Surpreme Court Oral Transcripts).