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Out of Our Minds
Monday, October 24, 2005 3:40 PM
Supreme Meeting Etiquette
Kate Yandoh on Business

Donning robes may be going a bit too far, but I think one of the quirks of Supreme Court protocol may just be worth swearing in at your organization. During an interview with Justice Stephen Breyer (whose role as Junior Justice means he is the one who answers the door if anyone knocks to ask a question or bring coffee while the Supremes are in chamber,) he noted that, when the Justices gather to discuss a case, no one is allowed to speak twice until everyone present has spoken once about the issue at hand. Seems simple, courteous, but imagine what it could do to create a real dialogue.

Anyone - I think this may well be everyone - who has ever had a point bubble up inside us but get submerged under the force of more forceful talkers, the naturally less verbal (but perhaps more thoughtful,) even the habitual motormouth have something to gain, both by getting that designated piece of the floor and then being temporarily asked to yield it and listen.

Any experiences with this type of rule, with or without the benefit of a gavel?

1 comment

Janet Auty-Carlisle - 10/24/2005 5:41:32 PM
I am an adjuicator for the Employment Insurance commission here in my town. There are three members on the board, one represents the employee, one represents the employer, that's me, and the third is a chair. The protocol is clear and distinct and it is extremely important that it be followed. One of the things that I love about the protocol is that nobody talks while any other member of the board is out of the room. No discussion allowed whatsoever...the thought being the case could be prejudiced...and it works. The other thing I love about it is that each member takes a turn at speaking. They can pass if they want to but I have yet to see that happen. Deliberations are important and it's important that each side be represented in a fair and judicial manner. So, talking is allowed, one at a time, and each person gets a say. Most important is that the person requesting the appeal in the first place, gets a chance to speak their peace, present their case, and be heard by the board. I am the kind of person who will have a thought and then forget it sometimes so, I write it down to ensure my question is heard...unless it has already been answered. And, no gavels required.


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