Last Thursday, I argued an appeal in the Third Circuit before Judges Chagares, Jordan, and Vanaskie. Ours was the second of two appeals to be argued that day. At the end of the first argument, a criminal case, Judge Chagares, who was presiding, asked the lawyers who had just argued to come to sidebar so that the judges could shake their hands. This handshake has long been a tradition in the Fourth Circuit, as noted here and elsewhere, but I had never seen it before in the Third Circuit.
When our argument concluded, Judge Chagares extended the same invitation to “greet us [the panel] at sidebar as we did in the last case.” Not only did the judges shake the hands of the two of us who had argued, they also shook hands with the members of our respective teams who were present. The oral argument was incredibly stimulating (and, at a total of 42 minutes, nearly half again as long as the 30 minutes the two sides were originally given), but the post-argument handshakes with the panel were a memorable high point and a great way to wind up a vigorous argument.
I asked a court official whether the post-argument handshake was now a Third Circuit practice. That official was not aware of such handshaking having occurred before, though admittedly there are many panels, comprising many different permutations of judges, and presumably no official records of this are kept. The oral argument audio reflects the invitation by Judge Chagares to greet the panel at sidebar, so an enterprising researcher could review oral argument audio of other arguments to see whether and how often this has happened before. Failing that, if any readers have any insight into this, please feel free to post replies.