U.S. Supreme Court to hear oral arguments by phone for first time in history

By Bethany Blankley | The Center Square

The U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear oral arguments by telephone for the first time since it first convened in 1790.

Due to the coronavirus shutdown and public health guidance in response to COVID-19, the justices and attorneys all will participate remotely, the court said.

The court is hearing 11 previously postponed cases due to the coronavirus shutdown; select arguments will be made by phone on May 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13.

“The biggest chance is that the Supreme Court will, for the first time, livestream the audio from its May arguments,” Robert Henneke, general counsel and director of the Center for the American Future at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, told The Center Square.

Henneke, who has presented oral arguments before the court, said, “While in-person arguments will eventually return, I hope the Court will keep broadcasting the audio from its arguments in real time.”

According to the court’s public information office, a live audio feed of the arguments will be provided to the media, another first in the court’s 230-year history. Generally, audio recordings of oral arguments are posted on the Friday after they are held, although in some instances, same-day audio has been posted.

C-SPAN also said it is “committing to airing live each” of the 10 arguments.

Three key cases relate to President Donald Trump’s financial records. Three other cases relate to religious freedom and the First Amendment.

After the Clerk’s Office has confirmed attorney availability, argument dates will be assigned for the 11 cases the court plans to hear:

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
The Supreme Court building remains open for official business and most personnel are teleworking. The justices have continued to hold weekly conference calls, and have continued to issue opinions, posting them online in five-minute increments.

For the cases that will not be heard over the phone, CBS News reports that it remains unclear whether the court will schedule oral arguments for the next term, which begins in October, or whether the justices will rule on cases without hearing oral arguments at all.

The justices are scheduled to hold their next conference on Friday to discuss pending cases, the court announced.