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U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia Addresses Titans Breakfast

On Sept. 25, 500 attendees gathered at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner for the first NVTC Titans breakfast of the 2013-2014 series featuring U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. During the event, Justice Scalia shared advice from Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges, a book he co-wrote with lawyer Bryan Garner.

Justice Scalia
U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia addresses the NVTC Titans audience on Sept. 25, 2013.

During his address, Scalia applied lessons related to making legal arguments to the business and technology sector. When presenting an argument to any decision-maker, you must know your audience, know your case, and clearly communicate. Justice Scalia stressed that jargon, overstatements, distorted facts, theatrical gestures, and excessive use of verbal fillers (such as “um”) will distract from even the best of arguments. Instead, he said, it is best to value clarity and simplicity in your message, treat your audience as intellectual equals, make eye contact, and correctly employ pauses.

Justice Scalia also offered advice on written arguments, stating that a command of written English is essential to make a point. Stressing that successful writing is not made overnight, Justice Scalia told the audience that reading good prose, letting ideas mature before writing, and using paragraphs to direct the reader is the best way to persuade decision-makers.

During a candid audience question and answer session, Justice Scalia addressed the U.S. Supreme Court’s potential future role in determining the legality of NSA wiretapping, saying that he feels it’s unfortunate that the issue may have to be decided by the Court, "the branch of government that knows the least about the issue." He also discussed recent trends to label courts as “activist” when they rule on controversial issues. In addition, he answered questions about when it is appropriate for judges to recuse themselves from cases, recommended readings, and examples of successful briefs and oral arguments.