Attending Oral Argument

Schedule

The court sits during six weeks in Richmond each year and at special sessions scheduled at law schools and other locations throughout the circuit. The court posts its argument schedule a year in advance and posts the cases to be argued six weeks in advance.

Courthouse

The courthouse doors open at 7:00 a.m. on argument days. Visitors must show photo identification and pass through security screening. Electronic devices are prohibited except for attorneys and their staff. Electronic devices must be turned off prior to entering the courtrooms but may be used by counsel during argument of their case. Photographs, video-recording, and audio-recording are prohibited. Food and beverages may not be brought into the courthouse.

Courtroom Seating

Public seating in the courtrooms is on a first-come, first-seated basis, and the amount of gallery seating in each courtroom varies widely.

  • Red Courtroom, Fourth Floor, Room 412: Gallery seats 111.
  • Butzner Courtroom, Second Floor, Room 201: Gallery seats 72.
  • Tan Courtroom, Second Floor, Room 223: Gallery seats 24.
  • Tweed Courtroom, Fourth Floor, Room 414-D: Gallery seats 20.
  • Gold Courtroom, Third Floor, Room 348: Gallery seats 52.
  • Blue Courtroom, Third Floor, Room 339: Gallery seats 72.

Argument Times

Oral arguments start at 9:30 a.m. each day with the exception of the last day of the court session, when oral arguments begin at 8:30 a.m. En banc arguments begin at 9:00 a.m. The start time for each panel appears on the oral argument calendar.

Each side generally has 20 minutes of argument time, for a total of 40 minutes of argument time per case. Appellants argue first and may reserve up to one-third of their time for rebuttal following appellees' argument.  Following argument of each case, the judges come down from the bench to shake hands with counsel and thank them for their advocacy before calling the next case.

Panels

Five argument panels generally sit each day the court is in session. The court uses a computer program to achieve random selection of three-judge panels and random assignment of cases to panels. If a panel has had significant prior involvement with a case, the case will be returned to that panel if possible. The composition of the argument panels changes each day, and the court does not release the identity of the panel until the morning of argument. If, on a poll of the court, a majority of the court's active judges vote to hear a case en banc, argument will be held en banc (before the entire court). 

Cases

The court initially schedules four cases before each panel, but changes may occur in the number and order of cases up until the time of argument. Initial notice and calendar updates are available via RSS feed or email subscription.

The calendar includes a brief description of each case, prepared by the clerk's office for public reference. The description does not reflect the court's view of the case or limit the issues counsel may argue. The calendar includes links to the briefs and appendices on PACER for each case.

Student Groups

Student groups planning to attend oral argument are encouraged to contact the student coordinator at (804) 916-2715 for assistance in coordinating their visit.

Media

No later than 4:00 p.m. on the Friday preceding the date of argument, members of the press may request reserved seating on the Contact page of the court's Web site by selecting the Media Seating category in the dropdown menu. Specify the case name and date of argument and include your name, title, news organization, address, email address, and phone number with your request for media seating. Approval will be sent via email.  You may also contact the chief deputy clerk at (804) 916-2760. Only one representative from each media organization or entity will be allowed to reserve a seat. Confirmed media attendees must arrive at least 30 minutes prior to argument and carry their credentials. Media representatives who do not have reserved seating may use public seating on a first-come, first-seated basis. Media interviews and public gatherings must be conducted off the courthouse property and courthouse steps and must not impede public access to the courthouse.

High Profile Cases

The court will post a Media Advisory on its News & Announcements page whenever additional arrangements are made for argument in high profile cases.