Andy Warhol: “In the Future, Everyone will be World-Famous for 15 Minutes!”

Recently, I appeared before the Massachusetts Appeals Court. While most attorneys do not try cases, very few have the opportunity to appear before the Appeals Court. I have been honored to have appeared a handful of times. And each time, I remain in awe of how formal the process is and how exhilarating it feels to argue a case on appeal.

First, the Rules of Appellate Procedure (“Rules”) are very precise about the form of the written brief filed with the Court. The Rules dictate the size of the font, the margins, the color of ink and paper, the size of the paper, type of spacing, even where and how to bind the brief. Writing the brief is a painstaking process, months in the making to ensure that each argument is cogent and tight, and every legal citation in proper form.

Once the brief is filed, it’s time to prepare for the oral argument. Each party to the case is given its “15 minutes” of fame, so to speak. For those brief 15 minutes, I spent hours, upon hours, upon hours, preparing my argument and, equally important, preparing and anticipating the questions the judges would ask me, all the while recalling my motto: “be prepared, be prepared, be prepared, and then, prepare!”

The Appeals Court usually consists of a three judge panel. Each judge and his or her law clerks will have already read my brief, and likewise the judges are poised and prepared to interrupt me with questions. The last time I appeared, I had just finished introducing myself when I was interrupted. I never returned to my prepared argument but I was prepared for their relentless questioning.

The timing of my allotted fifteen minutes is extremely formal and precise. On the podium, ahead on me, are three lights: green, yellow, and red. When I start my argument, the green goes off, with one and a half minutes left, the yellow goes off, and, at the end of my fixed fifteen minutes, the red goes off; even in the midst of thought, I must stop and thank the judges.

Ready, set, show time. My case was called for 9:15 a.m. at the Boston Court House. I live in Newton, and knowing that the Boston morning commute is horrible, I decided, for this normal 35 minute ride, I would leave extra early (“being early, is being on time”) and left my house at 7:00 am. Surprisingly there was no traffic that morning; I parked the car and arrived at the courthouse at 7:45 a.m. After an interminable wait, the case was finally called at 11:45 am. My opponent, the Appellant, who actually filed the appeal, went first and was peppered with questions from the outset. When it was my turn, I started my introduction, and was ready to be interrupted with questions, yet, not one judge asked me a thing! After 7 minutes, the Chief Justice asked if I had anything further to say, whereupon, I said thank you, and sat down. All that preparation, and no peppering!!!

Three weeks after arguing, the Court ruled against my opponent making all the pain and angst worthwhile.

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