Oral argument—the once commonplace art of making one’s case before the judge—is slipping into obscurity in the nation’s federal courtrooms after steadily going out of fashion.

This is especially so in the federal circuit courts of appeals across the country. In the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, 2006, 25.9 percent, or 8,956, of all 34,580 cases decided on their merits were disposed of after hearing arguments, according to data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. In the most recent statistical year, 2015-16, that number dropped 8.4 percentage points to 17.5 percent, or 6,392 of 36,547 cases. (The AOC data excludes the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.) The overwhelming majority of federal appeals were decided on the briefs in 2015-16.

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