Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh meeting with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina,, on July 11, 2018. Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

Much ink has been spilled about Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s rulings and opinions, his views on hot-button constitutional questions, and his work as a lawyer on independent counsel Ken Starr’s team. But what should a lawyer approaching the Supreme Court’s lectern expect from an “Associate Justice” Kavanaugh during oral argument, if he’s confirmed?

His dozen years as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit offer some hint, and some of Washington’s top appellate advocates shared their thoughts on arguing before Kavanaugh:

Sidley Austin partner Peter Keisler:

“He’s always very well-prepared, he’s active at argument, and his questions are probing and thoughtful. Even while asking the tough questions, his manner is consistently gracious and good-humored—and he listens seriously to the response, in a way that conveys a very genuine open-mindedness.”

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher partner Helgi Walker:

“Judge Kavanaugh is, like his colleagues, always incredibly prepared. And sometimes he can hang back, sometimes he jumps in early. But he always has something very trenchant to say. He’s pretty open in sharing with advocates what his concerns are and where he thinks difficulties lie for a particular side of the case. … He’s also just fun to appear in front of because he’s so into the case. No matter how big or small, he’s read every inch of the record and comes very often loaded for bear. It’s both fun and a challenge.”

“My favorite memory of arguing before Judge Kavanaugh in the DC Circuit was in a case that involved sports programming, and the question was whether these basketball games were must-have programming or not. … I studied extra hard because I’m not a natural sports fan and I knew he would be all over the details of the basketball industry, and because he probably knew that it wasn’t something that came naturally to me. So that for me was a lot of fun. … He’s always so courteous that, no, he did not openly rib me. But you know I could see the corners of his mouth going up into a smile when I talked about the Los Angeles Lakers.”

Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection senior litigator Doug Letter:

“He was always very, not just polite, but friendly on the bench. I remember on one occasion an attorney was being given an extremely hard time by the other judges on the panel, and at a certain point, Judge Kavanaugh stepped in and asked if we could move on, like a reset, so the attorney would actually get to engage again in the argument.”

“He is an active questioner on the bench, and he does joke a fair amount; he’s got a very good sense of humor, and he did not check it at the courtroom door. It’s obviously very different at the Supreme Court, but on the D.C. Circuit, you’ve often got unlimited time (for oral arguments). Sometimes he’ll offer an introduction to his question in order to make clear what he is asking and why.”

Kirkland & Ellis partner Paul Clement:

“If you are arguing before Judge Kavanaugh, you better bring your A-game, because he most certainly will.”

Read more:

Brett Kavanaugh ‘Looks for Ways to Rule for Employers’

Akhil Amar, Liberal Prof at Yale Law, Would Testify for Kavanaugh If Asked

Kavanaugh Confirmation Team Takes Shape, Boosted by Former Clerks

Kavanaugh Might Have Recusal Problems If These Cases Reach SCOTUS