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Supreme Court to Hear Oral Arguments in Casey Martin Matter

Lawyers for Casey Martin and the PGA Tour will have the opportunity to directly address the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, an indication that the nation's highest court considers the case one of the more important matters it will review this term.

The Court has set Wednesday, January 17, 2001, as the date on which lawyers can summarize the legal points to be made in written briefs that must be filed in November and December.

Martin's case began in 1997, when he sued the PGA Tour under the Americans With Disabilities Act for the right to ride a golf cart in Tour-sponsored events. Martin suffers from a condition called Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome, which causes blood to pool in his right leg instead of returning to his heart. The resulting difficulty in walking makes it virtually impossible for Martin to play 18 holes without help in getting around.

Martin won a trial in federal court in Oregon in 1998, and the decision withstood an appeal to the intermediate level, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Then the PGA Tour, emboldened by an opposite result in a case with similar facts in another judicial circuit, decided to appeal to the Supreme Court. Before the other case, in which Indiana golf pro Ford Olinger had sued the U.S. Golf Association over cart use in U.S. Open qualifying, the Tour had indicated it might let the matter drop after one appeal.

The Supreme Court, which for the most part picks and chooses which appeals it will hear in its annual nine-month term, usually accepts only about 150 cases from a pool of between 7,000 and 8,000 applications. Of those accepted, about 100 are scheduled for oral argument. The nine Justices generally only grant argument in cases they feel to be legally important. Other cases are decided on the basis of written briefs alone.

The Court considers arguments for weeks or sometimes months before issuing a final decision.

Roy Reardon of the New York City law firm of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett leads the team that will argue the appeal for Martin. William J. Maledon, of the Phoenix firm Osborn Maledon who conducted the trial for the PGA Tour, will also handle the final appeal.

In the highly formalized procedures of the Court, each side will have 30 minutes to make its legal points. A white light on the lectern goes on when five minutes of the allotted time are left, and when the red light goes on, counsel must stop speaking.

During the argument, any of the nine Justices may interrupt counsel to ask questions designed to test the legal theories he is advancing. Hypothetical questions that alter the facts of the case are common tools Justices use to expose flaws in counsels' positions. Poise, preparation, and experience are keys to success.

In addition to the detailed legal briefs to be filed by the parties, others with a demonstrated interest in the outcome may ask the Court's permission to file briefs as amicus curiae, or 'friends of the court.' Expect the USGA and other organizations to use this avenue to put in their legal arguments.