INTERVIEW CONDUCTED AND EDITED BY AMY KATES
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAM DEAN
Trial attorneys get to build cases. Gentry Locke
appellate lawyer Monica T. Monday delights in
slipping on doctor’s gloves to dissect them
Q: You have a great comic book heroine
name. Do people comment on it?
A: They do. But I’ve always thought it sounds
like a weather girl. Like, “Monica Monday,
reporting live, and it’s very sunny today.”
Q: More like, “Monica Monday: Oral
Argument Junkie.” That’s what you call
A: You’ve read my article. Yes. I’m absolutely
addicted to oral argument. I remember in law
school, the very first time that I saw an appellate
argument demonstration. Immediately it was
something that I wanted to master. Except one
thing: I hated public speaking.
Q: You wanted to be a lawyer but hated
A: Yeah. I grew up as one of those people. I
was very quiet, and even by the time I got to
college and was less quiet, I did not speak
out in class. I just was not the person who
was raising their hand and wanting to speak.
I’m still nervous when I argue, but I find it to
be an adrenaline rush.
Anyway, the Virginia Supreme Court
started releasing its oral arguments
almost a year ago, and I have a very long
commute— 2½ hours, round trip. I can just
go on my iPhone, bring up the website and
listen to the arguments in the car. I just love
the exchange between the court and the
attorneys, and seeing how oral argument
flushes out the direction of the case. I
know I’m listening, but it’s like I can see the
disposition of the case evolving or jelling
during the court’s questioning.
Q: What have you learned from listening to
A: I only listen to ones [where] the subject
interests me or I’ve heard about the case.
But I really hear—which is different than
when I’m actually arguing—the justices
talking to one another.
When they’re asking a question of me, in
many instances, they’re asking a question,
or raising a point, with someone else on
the court. When they’re arguing with me,
they’re using their question and my answer
to advance what they’re thinking about the
case, or to further flesh it out.
I think this underscores the importance
of oral argument itself: that [the justices]
are really trying to work out the case in
Q: What brought you to the law?
A: It was an interest sparked by early
American constitutional history. I was
fascinated by the role of the judiciary. I
was an English major. I played with the
ideas of becoming a lobbyist, or going into
communications, publishing, things like
that. Then ultimately, it just seemed to make
sense to go to law school.