Court Battles

Tech-averse Supreme Court broadcasts teleconference arguments

Tech-averse Supreme Court broadcasts teleconference arguments

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 ThomasChief Justice Roberts wisely defers to California governor in church challenge  Supreme Court rules immigrants who fear torture can appeal deportations in court Supreme Court backs financial board overseeing Puerto Rico's debt 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 GinsburgIt wasn't just religious liberty that Chief Justice Roberts strangled Speculation swirls about next Supreme Court vacancy Supreme Court divided over fight for Trump's financial records   MORE, 87; Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerOn The Money: Expanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support | China halts purchases of US soybeans, pork | Supreme Court backs financial board overseeing Puerto Rico's debt Supreme Court backs financial board overseeing Puerto Rico's debt It wasn't just religious liberty that Chief Justice Roberts strangled MORE, 81; Clarence Thomas, 71; Samuel AlitoSamuel AlitoChief Justice Roberts wisely defers to California governor in church challenge  Supreme Court rules immigrants who fear torture can appeal deportations in court It wasn't just religious liberty that Chief Justice Roberts strangled MORE, 70; and John Roberts and Sonia SotomayorSonia SotomayorSupreme Court backs financial board overseeing Puerto Rico's debt It wasn't just religious liberty that Chief Justice Roberts strangled Speculation swirls about next Supreme Court vacancy MORE, both 65.

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The court will hold nine more arguments by telephone conference this month, including a landmark May 12 case involving President TrumpDonald John TrumpTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Barr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters MORE's financial records.