A few days ago, we told you here that the North Carolina Supreme Court had a new oral argument timing system. Since that time, we took a trip to the North Carolina Supreme Court to get more details (and pictures) of the new system in “mock” action.
As you can see from the photos below, the new timer system has two components. First, the system has red, yellow, and green lights which light up during the following intervals: 1) The green light comes on when your argument begins and remains on until you have 2 minutes remaining, 2) at which point the yellow light comes on and remains on until your oral argument time expires, and 3) when you are out of time the red light comes on and signals that you should sit down. If you are the appellant, and you want to reserve more than two minutes of your time for rebuttal, you need to sit down before the yellow light comes on.
This is why the second component of the oral argument notification system is so helpful. There is a digital timer that counts down the amount of time you have remaining for oral argument. This system lets you know to the second, for better or worse, how much time you have left.
Thus, the green light will come on and the timer will show 30:00 when your oral argument begins. When you have 2 minutes remaining, the yellow light will come on, and the timer will show 2:00 remaining. When (and if) your oral argument time expires, the red light will come on and the timer will display 0:00 (at which point you should promptly sit down if you have not already concluded your argument).
Assistant Attorney General Anne Middleton, who argued a case last week at the North Carolina Supreme Court, tells us that the new system is helpful in pacing oral argument and keeping track of the time. However, she did offer this warning: The location of the new timer and microphone systems on the top, left corner of the podium limits the size of materials you can place on the podium during oral argument.
We took a letter size notebook with us to the podium, and had a hard-time balancing it on the podium. After pushing the microphone and timer system up to the very top of the podium, we were finally able to get the notebook to fit—but nothing else. And you can imagine the noise you will create trying to move a live microphone around during an oral argument. Therefore, we suggest you have a minimalist plan next time you argue a case at the North Carolina Supreme Court.