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 ThomasGOP senator attacks Biden: 'I'm not sure what he recalls' Abortion, gun rights, ObamaCare at stake with Supreme Court pick Rush Limbaugh encourages Senate to skip hearings for Trump's SCOTUS nominee 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 GinsburgTrump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance Fox News poll: Biden ahead of Trump in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Ohio On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline MORE, 87; Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerREAD: Supreme Court justices mourn death of Ginsburg, 'an American hero' Ginsburg death sets up battle over future of court Trump's Supreme Court list reveals influence of Clarence Thomas MORE, 81; Clarence Thomas, 71; Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoAbortion, gun rights, ObamaCare at stake with Supreme Court pick READ: Supreme Court justices mourn death of Ginsburg, 'an American hero' Ginsburg death sets up battle over future of court MORE, 70; and John Roberts and Sonia SotomayorSonia SotomayorToomey, swing state Republican, supports Senate moving on Trump Supreme Court nominee Names to watch as Trump picks Ginsburg replacement on Supreme Court READ: Supreme Court justices mourn death of Ginsburg, 'an American hero' MORE, both 65.

The court will hold nine more arguments by telephone conference this month, including a landmark May 12 case involving President TrumpDonald John TrumpSteele Dossier sub-source was subject of FBI counterintelligence probe Pelosi slams Trump executive order on pre-existing conditions: It 'isn't worth the paper it's signed on' Trump 'no longer angry' at Romney because of Supreme Court stance MORE's financial records.