[Opinión] Letters from London: Ten Tips from Antonin Scalia, Justice of the US Supreme Court, to Persuade a Court

| | Updated: 01/12/2021 12:16

Watching the carnival party in which some have turned the North American Capitol, I think interIt’ss retrieve this week some of the many tips that the míethical judge of the Yankee Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia, departmentsoh throughout his almost 30 years of judicial career, until his sudden death in 2016 at the age of 79.the.

As is known, unlike her colleague and great friend, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Scalia was known for his conservatism, having been appointed a judge at the behest of another great icon of the elephant party, the charismaticáTico president Ronald Reagan, on a distant September 26, 1986.

Despite their great differences políEthics, their friendship remained unchanged for years: Por máI know you are bothered by his discrepancy, he is so charming, so funny and sometimes so outrageous that you can’t help but say, ‘I’m glad he’s my friend or colleague, said RBG about their curious relationshipn.

Like in a movieícula de Scorsese, Antonin NinoScalia was the son of a couple of Sicilian immigrants from New York City, and he grew up in a Catholic environment.lico and intellectually challenging, that is, a discussion environment, sacánding any question and, above all, learning that noble art of convincing with the power of the word.

The kid stood outoh at Saint Francis Xavier High School, a Jesuit college in Manhattan, going on to Georgetown University, where he obtained the best grade of his class, later attending Harvard Law School, where he was commissionedoh from the prestigious magazine Hardvard Law Review”, reaching his graduationn magna cum laude “in 1960.

Before occupying the position of Justice of the Supreme Court, Scalia had a remarkable career as a lawyer, deputy attorney general and judge of the Court of Appeals for the Circuit of the District of Columbia, a stage in which some of his cIt’shares manias ” during the trials and alsoIt’sn out of them.

But let’s go to the room, while in the background the rituals are heard Hear! Hear! Hear!:


In 2014 and on the occasion of a visit to the Supreme Court, a student from the University of San Francisco askedoh a Scalia cuáhe was the best mIt’sall to convince a judge.

Without thinking too much Scalia said: Make it simpleKeep it simple”).

Your job as a lawyer is to make a complicated case look simple, not a simple case look complicated.. For it, Scalia recommended the use of short sentences, a device I understoodía little valued.


In 2005 and during a speech to a packed audience at the Juilliard School, Justice Scalia clarifiedoh that he main task of a lawyer is to remove the roll, the mystery, the ironíay la ambigüage of everything it touches.

For this, Scalia recommendedoh to future lawyers to leave their “Hollywood role” at home, which will not include florituras dramátics, ni audible sighs, and about not to shake the glassesduring the viewsA visual effect that seemed to be particularly unnerving to him.


For Scalia, appearance is an important element in courtroom interventions, especially when it comes to courts where the average age of judges tends to be somewhat high.

In such a way, Scalia advises against going with an informal appearance.

Rather, their recommendation includes, for men, wearing a dark suit, a slightly garish red or blue tie (tight), a white shirt, and hairstyles. In the case of the lawyers, alsoIt’sn recommended opting for colors conservativesand not risk.

In the same vein, while waiting to be called into view, Scalia suggestedíto avoid readings not related to the case, such as newspapers or magazines.

Similarly, when entering the courtroom, Scalia recommended taking a seat rápidamente, sentáStand up straight and keep your eyes on the court, avoiding jokes or inappropriate comments.


One of the más famosas maníScalia’s way was to prevent lawyers from merely reproducing his writings, (“Not in my court!”, Decíto). For Scalia it is important to address the court correctly from the initial moment and establish direct contact with the person who is going to solve your case.

That tooIt’sn includeíto make a brief presentation of both yourself and the party you defend.

Remember Scalia that the initial part of any exhibitionn and público is the máIt’s complicated, since beingá when the nerves appear and the adrenalina isIt’s pumping.

For this reason, he recommended having it prepared since no time to worry about what you are going to say at that moment”.


Childrento Scalia that, once you’ve made your argument, don’t stay givesspinning it like a good glass of port.

Scalia entendíbecause successful explanations are rarely “repetitive and ornate.”

Quite the contrary, for Scalia it’s nice to have a reputation for being an attorney that often falls short of the líhalves of allotted time”.


During the presentation before the judge, según Scalia, you should avoid bury your head between papers and notesand, on the contrary, look forward.

But that is notá enough to be persuasive, since mustás look into the eyes of the judge to establish a connectionn.

In the case of a collegiate body, for Scalia it is a great mistake to focus úOnly in the president of the court, since he considers that you should look at all of them, since you present your case before all of them.


With thousands of views celebrated behind him, Scalia recognizedíto what, although I have neveríHe saw a lawyer bite his nails in the courtroom sí other behaviors that distract the judge are common as well, such as making noises with the bowlígraph, lean the chair forward or backáyes, or continually stir the papers.

Scalia recommended working hard on these unnecessary distractions, así as other theatrical behaviors such as remarking each point of the exhibitionn quitándose and ponyIt’sputting on his glasses, or gesturing in the air with the bowlígrafo.

For Scalia, surely these resources are váLidos for the soap opera audience, but not before a judge trying to focus on the details of the case.

Otherwise, decía Scalia: don’t be surprised if the room breaks into applause when you finish your overstated speech”.


For Scalia, there is no time to rest during an oral hearing, so when you are not exhibiting in court you will haveás the temptation to relax, which is discouraged since you mustás be equally attentive to the opponent’s arguments.

In this way, mays answer any new questions that may arise, since there is no need to lower your guard.

However, decía Scalia, should notás show no reaction to the statements made by the other lawyer, for example, shaking the head, rolling the eyes or smilingír maliciously”.


Scalia decíBecause when the time allotted to present your arguments ends, it should take at most five seconds to finish the sentence and stop talking immediately.

In the same way, recommended avoiding looking at the judge with pious eyes at the request of me.ás time, much less say what unfortunately it hadítime is up”.

Según Scalia, that was a bad grade to finish”.

Equally, as soon as the judge opens his mouth”, Decía Scalia, mustás stop talking immediately.

It doesn’t matter if it isás in the middle of a sentence in your conclusions or at any other time.

For Scalia, it not only shows the respect due to the court but alsoás, allowá Include the answers to your questions at another time.

For this reason, mustás be prepared to stop and pick up your presentation where you left off, which in many cases is nothing fácil.

Mustás learn to do it, rowed Scalia.


Realizing that the time for lawyers is especially short, Scalia considered it to be difíIt is easy to finish with a brief summary of the points made.

For this reason, recommended always ending with a few formal words of gratitude to the judge or court, an option always better than ending with a sudden silence.

An elegant and polite way to end the interventionn.

Anyway, I imagine that after reading these tips, we will surely have identified some of the behaviors to avoid in the room and others that we will have toíWe have to reinforce.

In any case, diviIt’sGet up and take it with great humor, remember that if Scalia owns the rIt’scord of laughter and jokes from the Supreme Court, to beá for something.

For those who want meáYes, I highly recommend Making your Case. The Art of Persuading Judges“, O “Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts”, Which Scalia wrote with the lawyer and lexicographer, Bryan A. Garner.

As always, next week I willás.

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