Broken clocks, laryngitis at the Supreme Court
In a place where the time to argue some of the most important legal issues in the United States is pivotal yet limited, clocks throughout the Supreme Court building were not working on Monday — including the big one behind the bench that attorneys arguing their case and that spectators in the audience can see.
After the justices went on the bench at 10 a.m., Chief Justice John Roberts noted the problem and pointed out that attorneys are sometimes told not to look at the clock during oral arguments. “That is particularly important today,” he said.
Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said the problem stemmed from a “malfunction” with the court’s master clock. It apparently occurred when the clocks were to be turned back over the weekend for the end of daylight saving time.
Clocks in the building finally were fixed by the time the court heard arguments in a third case in the early afternoon.
Besides a broken clock, the arguments in the first case, a dispute over excessive fees charged to mutual fund investors, also produced another unusual development — the admission from Justice Stephen Breyer that he has laryngitis.
While asking a question, Breyer made a mistake and said the court was reversing — instead of reviewing — a federal judge’s opinion.
“I have laryngitis. I don’t speak accurately,” the hoarse-sounding Breyer told the lawyer as the courtroom erupted in laughter.
- Photo credit: Reuters/Jim Young