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Supreme Court Conducts Oral Argument Via Livestream

On May 4th, the United States Supreme Court moved into the 21st century by conducting oral argument on a court case via livestream. This allowed the public to listen in at the time that the oral argument was being conducted. Prior to this the oral argument would only be made public at the end of each week. This new policy allowed the public to listen in, unfiltered, and gave them a contemporaneous front-row seat. As with the first time with a lot of technology, there were glitches, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor forgot to unmute herself.supreme court

The US Supreme Court has always been resistant to technology and openness, and has never allowed cameras in during argument. Many trial courts have allowed this, and even many federal appellate courts have video, and that is how we prepared for oral argument when we had a case coming up at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The current health crisis is what forced the Supreme Court's hand. It will be interesting to see if they allow recordings in the future when the health crisis has passed. 

The case at hand Monday morning was not particularly political. The issue was a rather dull trademark issue, and most people who tuned in where there just to watch the novelty of a livestream oral argument as opposed to tuning in for the substance of the case.

The oral arguments of the Supreme Court have always been open to the public, but seats are extremely limited and you usually have to wait in line for hours for a chance to see. During the oral arguments, you typically have each lawyer gets to speak uninterrupted at the outset for 2 minutes, and then the justices start peppering the lawyers for each side with questions. The interruptions are frequent, and sometimes the justices even interrupt each other. During this livestream argument, everyone politely waited their turn to speak.