The Supreme Court of Virginia heard writ arguments this week, with 2  panels sitting outside of Richmond. One was in Roanoke County, where I was lucky enough to have a few arguments. That gave some of my friends and colleagues a chance to see what I do for a living. That was fun. More fun: my panel comprised Justices Koontz, Kinser, and Lemons, which made for some diabolically hard questions good conversation. Some days, it’s just fun to be a lawyer.

Peter Vieth, of VLW Blog fame, took in the Roanoke County writ arguments. He wrote a short piece about one of the distinctive aspects of arguing a writ panel on the road: the dreaded Red Square.

Instead of a lectern with a built-in timer, the County courthouse was equipped with a large computer monitor displaying a countdown timer with green numbers. When the argument time ran down to three minutes, the numbers turned yellow. When the time was up, the entire screen went red and displayed a message saying, “All your base are belong to us“–I mean, “Argument Time Expired.” The monitor sat on the bench, to the left of Justice Lemons. As Vieth quoted one prominent lawyer:

“It’s quite imposing,” said veteran appellate attorney Frank Friedman as he waited for the first case to be called.

Cowboy up, Frank! By all accounts, you did a fine job yesterday.

I, for one, welcome the Red Screen of Death. I wish they’d use it everywhere (and not just because it makes my job more like a video game). For one thing, it’s absolutely impossible to miss. That makes it easy to track your remaining time without breaking eye contact. Also, it adds to the audience participation factor. You can watch a lawyer’s time running down as he flails hopelessly in search of an answer, or track how much time he wastes before telling the Court what his case is actually about. Overall, a fine development.