Vladeck has his day in court

Prof. Stephen I. Vladeck delivered the first oral argument of his career on Tuesday, January 16, in the United States Supreme Court. The cases, DalmazziCox, and Ortiz et al. v. United States, pose questions about the legality of military officers serving simultaneously as military and civilian judges.

Audio of the oral arguments, including a linked transcript, has been posted by Oyez, and it is well worth a listen.

We spoke with Prof. Vladeck about the experience of arguing before the highest court in the land.

So, Prof. Vladeck: You had your day in Court. What was the experience like?

It was completely surreal. Even though I’ve been in the Court before, there’s just nothing that can prepare you for the experience of standing at that podium, almost on top of the Justices, and with all eyes on you for your 30 minutes of argument time.

While one can never know the outcome of a case, did you sense the justices were engaged with your arguments, even if they were not all in agreement?

The Justices were certainly engaged—I think eight of the nine Justices asked questions during the argument, and I got questions from seven. I also think the Court had fun with this case; you’ll find a bunch of notations of “[laughter]” in the transcript.

Is there anything you can do on these cases while you wait for a ruling?

Not really, no—it’s all up to the Court now, for better or for worse.

What are you turning your attention to next?

I had largely put everything else to the side in the four months between when the Court agreed to hear this case and the argument, so there’s quite a long list of stuff waiting for me. But I’m really looking forward to spending time with my larger academic project, of which this litigation was a significant part, on the relationship between the civilian and military spheres of government—and the circumstances in which the military is allowed to exercise control over civilians and civilian institutions.

But first, there’s my Spring 2018 Federal Courts class, which began Wednesday morning—23 hours after the argument ended—and for which I have lots of new fodder…