The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States judiciary branch. The nine judges (justices) of the court hear some of the most important legal cases in the country. For the first time ever, the public can now listen in to live arguments.
Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the justices can’t meet – so they will hear cases by phone instead. To keep the public informed, they will livestream the calls so members of the public can hear what’s going on.
Will this livestream mean a more open judiciary and improve liberty, or will this be a one-off event from the court in Washington, D.C.?
Any New Business?
The Supreme Court was closed to the public and all oral arguments were suspended during April; May 4 is the first day back. For this historic occasion, arguments will be made during a phone conference with the justices – and this time, everyone else can join them.
Normally, some people are allowed to sit in the gallery and watch the Supreme Court hear cases. In the time of Coronavirus and social distancing, however, a new way of working is needed.
Recordings of court sessions have been made since 1955 and are stored by the National Archives and Records Administration. However, until 2010, the oral arguments of one term were not made available until the beginning of the next. Since 2010 though, recordings of each week have been available the next week.
So why is the court going ahead with live broadcasts now?
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest in the land but it still has to obey to the same code of transparency that is expected of all branches of government. Usually, letting some of the general public sit in on the cases achieves that.
With social distancing measures enacted across much of the nation, that general admission approach just wouldn’t work – even if the justices were still meeting in person, which they aren’t. To make sure that the process of law remains above suspicion, a live broadcast provides reassurance to Americans that they will be kept in the loop.
Will this livestream signal a new technological age for the Supreme Court, or will things go back to normal once the pandemic is over?