High Court to Post Arguments on Web

By Kenneth Jost
Supreme Court Editor, CQ Press
The Supreme Court is taking another step into the Internet age.
With the new term set to begin next week (Oct. 4), the court is announcing that it will now make audio recordings of arguments available on the court’s Web site by the end of each argument week.

“The public may either download the audio files or listen to the recordings on the Court’s Web site,” according to a three-paragraph press release issued Tuesday (Sept. 28). The press release was distributed to the Supreme Court press corps and later posted on the court's Web site.
The decision represents another step toward increasing access to the court’s proceedings, but is far short of the move long urged by media organizations and others to allow live audio and video coverage of the court’s arguments. The justices presumably finalized the decision at their day-long conference on Monday as they prepared for the opening of the 2010-2011 term next week on the traditional First Monday in October.

The court hears arguments three days a week in seven, two-week sessions beginning in October and ending in April. The press release notes that the court began recording arguments in 1955. The recordings have been maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration, but up till now have been made publicly available only after the end of the court’s term in late June.
Beginning with the Bush v. Gore presidential election contest in 2000, the court has occasionally made audio recordings of high-profile cases available immediately after their conclusion. Radio and television news organizations have used excerpts in newscasts; C-SPAN and some public radio stations have broadcast arguments in their entirety. SCOTUSBlog reporter Lyle Denniston reported that "it is understood" that same-day releases will now be discontinued.

The justices have stoutly resisted the recurrent calls from media groups and from some members of Congress to permit live audio and video coverage of arguments or decisions. In her confirmation hearing, Justice Elena Kagan indicated she was open to televising the court’s proceedings. Five years ago, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. similarly told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would consider the move if confirmed. A year later, Roberts said he had changed his mind.