Login | June 01, 2020

SCOTUS arguments go remote

RICHARD WEINER
Legal News Reporter

Published: May 1, 2020

Even the Supreme Court has had its business as usual interrupted by the virus. For the first time in its history, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments from attorneys arguing from remote locations.
The arguments will be heard by telephone conference during the first two weeks of May. They will concern a number of cases that have been previously postponed during the nationwide medical emergency. The cases will be set for specific dates based upon availability of counsel.
All justices will hear the cases remotely, although the building is open for court business. It is not open to the public, and a press release noted that most court personnel are working remotely. The Court will provide a live audio feed to the public.
SCOTUS normally hears about 70-80 oral arguments per year. There will be 13 cases argued telephonically in this experimental session. The arguments will include some high publicity cases, including Trump v. Deutsche Bank AG; Trump v. Vance; Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP; Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants, Inc; and United States Patent and Trademark Office v. Booking.com B.V.
As of this date, the Court has not set out the procedures for the arguments. It is difficult to envisage that remote arguments would look like, or sound like, the rapid-fire, in-your-face metre of in-person Supreme Court arguments, though.
One writer who just completed a telephonic remote argument at the Massachusetts Supreme Court has some suggestions for how the Supremes could handle this, based on how the Mass court proceeded.
In that case, each advocate got three minutes to speak at the start of the session to speak without interruption. Second, justices then asked their questions in descending order of seniority. While each side was limited to 15 minutes, there were no sonic indications of time. Some of the arguments went over time. The arguments were live fed to the public.
The US Supreme Court already recently allowed two minutes of interrupted presentation to begin an argument. But can the Justices refrain from interrupting each other and counsel with questions? Tune into the live feed and we will all se the answer to those questions together.


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