The Supreme Court will return to its courtroom next month

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court will resume its in-person hearings when its new term begins in October, after a hiatus of more than a yea...


WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court will resume its in-person hearings when its new term begins in October, after a hiatus of more than a year in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the court announced Wednesday.

But the effects of the pandemic will continue to alter court practices, according to the announcement. The courtroom will not be open to the public and the court will provide a live audio stream. The new arrangement is an interim measure that will remain in place for arguments in October, November and December.

“Access to courtrooms will be limited to judges, essential court personnel, lawyers in scheduled cases and journalists with full-time press accreditation issued by the Supreme Court,” the statement said. “The court will continue to closely monitor public health guidelines to determine plans. “

The court last heard the arguments in person in March 2020. The court’s initial reaction to the pandemic was to postpone some 20 arguments that were scheduled for this spring. In the end, he heard 10 in May and postponed the rest to his next term, which began last October.

Since then, arguments have taken place by telephone. Although the court has long resisted live audio coverage, it provided a live stream of telephone arguments, an innovation who now seems here to stay.

The telephone arguments received mixed reviews. They were ordered, the judges asking the questions one at a time in order of seniority. Judge Clarence Thomas, who rarely asks questions from the bench, was a full participant.

But the telephone arguments lacked the dynamic quality of the scrum that characterizes arguments in the courtroom. The static and forced nature of the questioning diminished the ability of the judges to use their questions to talk to each other in jumping to lean on or respond to the concerns of their colleagues.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who was an accomplished Supreme Court lawyer before joining the court, explained that oral argument is largely a way for judges to begin their deliberations.

“Very often the judges debate among themselves and simply use the lawyers as a support”, he told the students at Columbia Law School in 2008.

These interactions have largely disappeared in the telephone format, which sometimes took on the rambling quality of an interrogation in a congressional hearing.

Still, there were a few issues, putting aside what looked like a flush toilet.

When the court hears arguments in person, most judges ask questions primarily or only of the lawyer for the camp they will be voting against.

In 2004 remarks to the Supreme Court Historical Society, Chief Justice Roberts, then a judge of the appellate court, made an amusing remark based on widely accepted statistics: “The secret to successful advocacy is simply to ‘get the court to ask your opponent more questions. “

In telephone arguments, by contrast, in which each judge typically asks questions of each lawyer, it became more difficult for observers to predict which side was likely to win.



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Newsrust - US Top News: The Supreme Court will return to its courtroom next month
The Supreme Court will return to its courtroom next month
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