Two historic firsts this morning: the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case via teleconference and it allowed the public to listen in live. A few quick notes on what I found interesting and tips if you’re considering listening in for other cases this month. (Notes on the cases are here; this Wednesday and next week are going to be particularly interesting.)
- The best way to get the arguments appears to be c-span.org/supremeCourt/ . Other likely sites I checked either weren’t streaming the arguments or had poor audio quality. Also, c-span followed the arguments with an interesting virtual-panel discussion moderated by National Constitution Center’s Jeff Rosen.
- The Justices are taking turns! For anyone who is used to the back-and-forth questioning, this is truly bizarre. Arguing counsel is allowed to make an opening statement uninterrupted for about 2 minutes, then the Chief Justice asks questions for about 4 minutes, and then each Justice, in order of seniority, gets no more than 4 minutes. Yes, this also means they ran a little over the usual 30 mins/side. I don’t know if the Chief will become more or less strict with the timing, but this orderly turn-taking is the plan.
- Justice Thomas used his time and asked multiple questions! He has previously said that he so rarely participates in oral arguments because he wants to hear arguing counsel make their case without interruptions, so maybe this new format is more acceptable to him.
- You definitely lose something. Justices can’t follow-up on others’ questions (except as continuation of the prior question) and the “flow” makes less sense, since the questions are based on whose turn it is rather than a topic of inquiry. But it did seem to allow arguing counsel to offer more structured points (although it’s hard to say with a sample size of two; they might have just been especially good litigators).