Here's Adam Liptak about how oral argument has turned into sniping among the Justices:
If you didn’t know it was a Supreme Court argument, you might think you were seeing a catastrophically overbooked cable television show.
The justices of late have been jostling for judicial airtime in a sort of verbal roller derby. Consider an argument last month about the right to counsel. About 15 minutes in, Justice Stephen G. Breyer tried to ask a question. The effort failed, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg jumped in. A half-hour passed before Justice Breyer had another chance, and now his attempt was interrupted by Justice Antonin Scalia, who said Justice Breyer was asking irrelevant questions. Then Justice Scalia pressed a point that did not interest Justice Breyer. As the lawyer tried to answer Justice Scalia, Justice Breyer stopped him. “Skip that one,” Justice Breyer said of Justice Scalia’s question.
Earlier, as Justice Anthony M. Kennedy was trying to get a word in edgewise, Justice Scalia succeeded in handing off the ball to a frequent ally, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. “Maybe Justice Alito can ask his question,” Justice Scalia said as he finished making his own point.
Seth P. Waxman, a former United States solicitor general, was caught in the cross-fire. He was answering a question from Justice Sonia Sotomayor when Chief Justice John G. Roberts tried to interrupt. “Counsel,” the chief justice said. Mr. Waxman kept talking, which seemed to irritate the chief justice. “Counsel!” the chief justice repeated, now in a raised voice. (The exclamation point is in the official transcript.) Mr. Waxman was contrite. “Mr. Chief Justice, I’m sorry,” he said.