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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 ThomasMcConnell sparks new Supreme Court fight Supreme Court unanimously rules certain crack offenders not eligible for resentencing Supreme Court confounding its partisan critics 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 GinsburgOcasio-Cortez says Breyer should retire from Supreme Court Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema Juan Williams: Time for Justice Breyer to go MORE, 87; Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden on Putin: 'a worthy adversary' McConnell sparks new Supreme Court fight Senate confirms Garland's successor to appeals court MORE, 81; Clarence Thomas, 71; Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoMcConnell sparks new Supreme Court fight Gorsuch, Thomas join liberal justices in siding with criminal defendant Supreme Court narrows cybercrime law MORE, 70; and John Roberts and Sonia SotomayorSonia SotomayorSupreme Court unanimously rules certain crack offenders not eligible for resentencing Supreme Court confounding its partisan critics Gorsuch, Thomas join liberal justices in siding with criminal defendant MORE, both 65.

The court will hold nine more arguments by telephone conference this month, including a landmark May 12 case involving President TrumpDonald TrumpNorth Carolina Senate passes trio of election measures 14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday Border state governors rebel against Biden's immigration chaos MORE's financial records.