In March 2020, the Court postponed oral arguments due to the pandemic, noting that doing so was “not unprecedented. The Court postponed scheduled arguments for October 1918 in response to the Spanish flu epidemic. The Court also shortened its argument calendars in August 1793 and August 1798 in response to yellow fever outbreaks.” Two months later, we had unprecedented arguments — via telephone, following a different model, and available to the public to listen in live.
Arguing counsel, Justices, and Court personnel returned to the courtroom in February 2022, but it remained closed to the press, other members of the bar, and the public. This was a notable improvement over the telephone arguments — Scotusblog had an interesting symposium and I fully agree with Lyle Dennison’s critique of the way arguments had been conducted by phone, although others at that symposium feel differently. The October 22-23 term was entirely in this format.
So far, there have been no indications of when or if public access will return, or what will happen to online access. For the latest (and all) covid announcements, see this page. I am hopeful we’ll be able to see the arguments in person (we really do lose a lot when we can’t see faces and body language) but I also hope the live-stream of audio will be a permanent feature.
To listen in live
- The homepage or the Court’s audio page seems to be the best for listening in live. I’ve noticed that if I try to launch the audio early, I get an error right around 9:59; just refresh the page then.
- Alternatively, C-SPAN offers a reliable stream. If you’re mobile, the C-SPAN Radio app is the best option; it doesn’t stream all arguments but will cover the most high-profile cases of general interest. Finally, Scotusblog.org occasionally hosts a live blog, and their twitter typically follows the major arguments.
Arguments begin at 10am Eastern, with each case typically scheduled for one hour but running long now that the Court is experimenting with new questioning formats. Therefore, the second argument often does not start until significantly later than 11:00.
Apart from live streaming, there are various ways to take in the arguments after they are completed.
In addition, on Oyez you can get transcript-synchronized audio (the transcript scrolls and highlights automatically as you listen). It’s a great service. Click the case name then click the link in the left column. It takes a little while for these to be available after the audio release, but they seem to be fairly quick.