Oral argument is not a time to restate the facts of the case or repeat parts of the brief. The judges know what you said in your brief. Oral argument is the time to make sure that the court understands the key issues of the case by highlighting what you think is most important in your case or asking the judges if they have any questions you could answer.
You do not have to participate in oral argument if you do not want to. You can let the appellate court know that you want to "waive" (give up) oral argument. See the "Waiving oral argument" section below to find out how.
If you do choose to have oral argument and your case is in the appellate division of the superior court, you will have up to 10 minutes to present your argument (unless the court gives you more or less time). If your case is in the Court of Appeal, you will have up to 30 minutes to present your argument (unless the court gives you more or less time).
Click to hear oral arguments at the California Supreme Court. (Note that these oral arguments are before the California Supreme Court, but they will give you a good idea of what to expect in other appellate courts).
The fact that you orally argue a case does not affect how long it takes to get your decision. It will not delay your case. If only one side waives (gives up) oral argument, the appellate court will hold oral argument with the other side. If everyone waives oral argument, the judges will consider your appeal based on the briefs and the record that were submitted.
Telling the court whether you want oral argument
Once all the briefs have been filed or the time to file them has passed, the court will send you a notice with the date for oral argument and will probably ask you if you want to have oral argument.
You can "waive" (give up) oral argument if you want. To let the court know that you do NOT want to have oral argument:
To tell the court you DO want to participate in oral argument, let the court know that in writing or in person when the court sends you the notice with the date for oral argument. If you do NOT let the court know you want oral argument, it will assume you do not want to have it and you will lose your chance to have oral argument.
In some juvenile appeals, you may have to serve and file a request for oral argument (if you want it). For example, if you are appealing the termination of your parental rights, you must request oral argument and file the request within 15 days after your reply brief is filed or is due.
Remember that the judges will be familiar with your case and will have already read the briefs, so you do not need to restate the facts of the case or repeat parts of the brief. It is more helpful to just highlight what you think is most important in your case or ask the judges if they have any questions you could answer. The judges may interrupt you (and the other side) to ask questions about your case and authorities (published court decisions, constitutions, statutes, court rules or other legal authorities) that you cited or should have cited. Remember to stay calm and respectful, even if you get frustrated or are interrupted. Whenever you are asked something you should stop what you are saying and answer as directly as possible. If you do not know the answer, then just say so. Also, remember that you cannot present new arguments orally unless you discussed them in your brief.