On April 18, students in the Program in Washington were in the Supreme Court to hear oral argument in the case of Salazar v. Ramah Navajo Chapters, et al. , which arose out of a dispute about federal payments for services contracted out to Indian tribes. The case raises important constitutional questions about congressional spending power.
The Supreme Court grants review to only about 100 of the approximately 10,000 petitions it receives each year. In the oral argument, an attorney for each side of a case has the opportunity to make a presentation to the Court and answer questions posed by the justices. Prior to the argument each side submits a legal brief—a written legal argument outlining each party’s points of law. The justices read these briefs prior to argument and are thoroughly familiar with the case, its facts, and the legal positions that each party is advocating.