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Tech-averse Supreme Court broadcasts teleconference arguments

Tech-averse Supreme Court broadcasts teleconference arguments
© Greg Nash

The Supreme Court on Monday broke with tradition and held oral arguments by conference call, a first for the famously tech-averse tribunal as the justices adapt to the global pandemic.

A live audio feed of the argument — a trademark dispute concerning the travel service Booking.com — gave the general public unprecedented access to the hearing in real time.  

As arguments opened, the justices allowed counsel two minutes of speaking time before posing questions, which began with Chief Justice John Roberts and proceeded to the other justices in order of seniority.

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In another rarity, conservative Justice Clarence ThomasClarence ThomasSupreme Court won't review Pennsylvania GOP election lawsuits A powerful tool to take on the Supreme Court — if Democrats use it right Supreme Court grants Alabama death row inmate's request for pastor MORE, who typically remains mum during arguments, posed a series of questions, the first time he has spoken this term. When Thomas spoke during arguments last year, he snapped a three-year silence.

The court’s embrace of teleconferencing represents a dramatic step for a court that has traditionally been wary of adopting new technologies and comes after the court postponed arguments in March and April in order to abide by social distancing policies.

Six of the nine justices are age 65 or older, placing them in a population that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers to be at risk for serious illness from the coronavirus. The older justices are Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgMcConnell backs Garland for attorney general A powerful tool to take on the Supreme Court — if Democrats use it right Fauci says he was nervous about catching COVID-19 in Trump White House MORE, 87; Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerA powerful tool to take on the Supreme Court — if Democrats use it right Supreme Court clears way for extradition of alleged Ghosn escape plotters Supreme Court grants Alabama death row inmate's request for pastor MORE, 81; Clarence Thomas, 71; Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoSupreme Court won't review Pennsylvania GOP election lawsuits A powerful tool to take on the Supreme Court — if Democrats use it right Alito 'not surprised' about reaction to comments about virus restrictions MORE, 70; and John Roberts and Sonia SotomayorSonia SotomayorJudge whose son was killed by gunman says Sotomayor also targeted A powerful tool to take on the Supreme Court — if Democrats use it right Supreme Court grants Alabama death row inmate's request for pastor MORE, both 65.

The court will hold nine more arguments by telephone conference this month, including a landmark May 12 case involving President TrumpDonald TrumpRomney: 'Pretty sure' Trump would win 2024 GOP nomination if he ran for president Pence huddles with senior members of Republican Study Committee Trump says 'no doubt' Tiger Woods will be back after accident MORE's financial records.