Oral arguments usually get most of the attention when cases make it to the U.S. Supreme Court, but Justice Samuel A. Alito said those arguments are a relatively small part of deciding each case. . . .
Alito delivered what he called a "top 10 list" of things people don't know about the Supreme Court. Among them is the importance of preparation and briefs compared to oral arguments.
"Oral argument is a relatively small and, truth be told, a relatively unimportant part of what we do," Alito said.
The justices often read 500 pages or more of briefs before hearing a case — 2,000 pages in one recent case, Alito said. Oral arguments typically last just an hour.
With all of that preparation, "when we do take the bench, we are really primed for the argument," Alito said. As evidence, he noted that last year, 40 percent of the words spoken in arguments before the Supreme Court were uttered by the justices, who averaged 120 questions per case — roughly two each minute.