Two Texas attorneys faced off against each other in an Oct. 9 oral argument before the United States Supreme Court.
It was the first time arguing before the high court for both William Allensworth and Scott Hastings.
In the case, Atlantic Marine Construction Co. Inc. v. U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, et al., the U.S. Supreme Court must decide which one of two federal statutes controls how a court should enforce forum-selection clauses. The underlying case is a construction dispute between Atlantic Marine Construction Co. Inc. and its subcontractor, J. Crew Management Inc.
Hastings, representing Atlantic Marine, says that on the day of the argument, “morning jitters” woke him up early. He says it was “surreal” walking into the court building that morning.
Allensworth, who represents J. Crew Management Inc., says that for him, the 1925 U.S. Supreme Court building emphasized the importance of the law and his own relative “insignificance.” But the courtroom itself is not as large as some Texas courtrooms, notes Allensworth, senior partner in Allensworth & Porter in Austin.
The lawyers’ podium stands less than 10 feet in front of the nine justices, he says.
“When it was our turn to go, I was very fortunate, I guess, or very excited to be the first one to speak, because at that point I was ready to stand up and say something, because it’s hard to stay still,” says Hastings, partner in Locke Lord in Dallas.
After delivering the first few sentences of his opening argument, Hastings recalls that the “rapid-fire” questioning began. Justices asked hard questions, but they posed them in a fair way, he recalls.
After 25 minutes, it was Allensworth’s turn. He remembers that he spoke for 20 seconds before the justices quizzed him. He says it was “a pleasant experience,” because the justices were laughing, and he felt “a nice rapport” with them.
“My confidence level rose throughout the argument. Instead of going down, it was going up,” Allensworth says.
Hastings says, “If there’s going to be one thing I remember more than anything else, it was just the experience of being at the podium, and here are the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court asking questions and just wanting to hear the answers that come out.”