Supreme Court Says It Will Hear Oral Arguments by Telephone

April 13, 2020 by Dan McCue
The U.S. Supreme Court building, June 2019. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will hear oral arguments by telephone conference next month, including cases involving so-called “faithless electors” and the Affordable Care Act’s contraception requirement.

Those cases, respectively, are Colorado Department of State v. Baca and Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania.

Also on the unusual docket are the ongoing dispute over access to President Donald Trump’s tax returns (the consolidated cases Trump v. Vance; Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP; Trump v. Deutsche Bank AG) and unwanted robocalls and free speech (Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants Inc.).

The court will hear 10 cases over six days — May 4–6 and 11-13 — with the justices and lawyers participating over teleconference to abide by social-distancing policies.

“In keeping with public health guidance in response to COVID-19, the justices and counsel will all participate remotely,” a statement from the court said.

News media will have access to a live audio feed of the arguments, though the details have not been announced.

Monday’s announcement that the justices will use teleconferences for oral arguments is considered a major step for a court that is traditionally slow to adopt new technologies.

However, it comes after the coronavirus outbreak forced the court to postpone oral arguments in March and April.

Anthony Marcum, a resident fellow at R Street, a non-profit public policy research organization, said, “In light of the current public health crisis, the Supreme Court is taking the right step to hear oral arguments remotely. This sends a powerful message that the Court remains open for business and will carry on adjudicating the nation’s most pressing legal disputes.”

“Even better, it has been reported that live audio of these hearings will be available to the public. This is unprecedented and a tremendous step in improving the transparency of the Supreme Court. After this current health crisis is over, there is little reason why the Court should not continue this practice,” Marcum added.

The cases to be heard in May will be assigned specific argument dates once the court clerk’s office has confirmed the availability of counsel:

The entire list of cases to be heard in May is as follows:

18-9526, McGirt v. Oklahoma

19-46, United States Patent and Trademark Office v. Booking.com B.V.

19-177, Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc.

19-267, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, and 19-348, St. James School v. Biel

19-431, Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, and 19-454, Trump v. Pennsylvania

19-465, Chiafalo v. Washington

19-518, Colorado Department of State v. Baca

19-631, Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants, Inc.

19-635, Trump v. Vance

19-715, Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP, and 19-760, Trump v. Deutsche Bank AG

As has been true the past several weeks, the Supreme Court building remains open for official business, but most court personnel are teleworking. The building remains closed to the public until further notice.

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